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Divorce ReconciliationIn some instances, a party files for divorce and then decides that reconciliation may be possible and wishes to stop the divorce proceedings.  It is important to know that just because you have filed a case, does not mean that you are required to get divorced and if you and your spouse decide you wish to attempt reconciliation, you do have options.  At McSwain Nagle & Giese, P.C. we believe in making all efforts to preserve the family unit and we always encourage parties to pursue their options for reconciliation in safe and healthy marriages.

If the case is being dismissed entirely, there are procedural requirements that must be followed.  The party who files the initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is known as the Petitioner in the divorce case. The other party is known as the Respondent. The Respondent can file a counter-Petition in which case they are also known as the Counter-Petitioner.  This is relevant because if you are the Respondent in the case, the Petitioner must agree to the case being dismissed.  If you are the Petitioner, and the Respondent does not agree, you may still be able to withdraw your Petition and close the case, as long as no Counter-Petition or custody proceeding has been filed and you pay the filing fees of the other party. 

Oftentimes parties who are attempting reconciliation are not certain that their attempts at saving their marriage will be successful but do wish to try.  In those instances, the parties may not want to dismiss their case entirely, but rather wish to put it on hold.  Frequently, marriage counseling is being attempted during this hold period and the parties do not wish to continue the litigation process while actively trying to salvage their marriage.  Litigation is by definition adversarial and typically not conducive to reconciliation.    

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Discovery ProcessIn many divorce cases, one spouse knows very little about the family finances, assets and debts, or the other spouse’s income and employment. There are many reasons why that could be the case, but often times it is because the other spouse was responsible for handling all of the financial aspects of the parties’ lives while they were married. Even in situations where the parties believe they are familiar with the other party’s income and assets, confirming that full disclosure has been made under oath is critical for diligence purposes.  Further, the exchange of financial information of both parties is necessary in order to reach a fair resolution in the case, whether through trial or settlement. Therefore, attorneys always recommend that the parties participate in full discovery during the divorce process.

Discovery is the process by which parties in a court case can obtain information and evidence that may be relevant to the specific facts or allegations in their case. Discovery is also commonly known as the “information gathering” stage of a case.  In a divorce case, typically all income and financial assets are relevant, even if they are non-marital, and at least 3-5 years of information is requested. It can be time consuming to prepare and gather as well as for the recipient to review and parties often spend many hours sorting through PDF’s or bankers boxes of documents in order to comply.

To begin the process, parties typically issue various requests including a Notice or Request to Produce and Interrogatories. A Notice to Produce requests that the other party produce any and all documents they have, or can reasonably obtain access to, in response to the specific requests set forth in the notice. For example, a Notice to Produce in divorce cases typically contains requests for financial documents such as paystubs, tax returns, bank account statements, and/or retirement plan statements.  While a spouse may not physically possess every bank statement for the last 3 years, the documentation is in their control and therefore they are obligated to reach out to the financial institution and request the information.  Interrogatories, on the other hand, are requests that ask the other party to answer, in written format, specific questions that may be relevant to the divorce case. For example, Interrogatories typically contain a request for the other party to list information such as their employment history, income, bank accounts, and/or retirement assets. The Supreme Court Rules contains the standard Interrogatories that must be used in a divorce proceeding unless a party is permitted by the court to ask for different information. 

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Wheaton divorce lawyerWhen parties have a completely uncontested (agreed upon) divorce, our office McSwain Nagle & Giese, P.C. may handle those cases on a flat fee basis, where no hourly charges are incurred. Unfortunately, even in situations where spouses are somewhat amicable, it is often very difficult to reach an agreement without legal guidance and some negotiations or litigation, particularly if there are minor children involved or substantial assets. In those cases, it is necessary to hire an experienced divorce attorney who is going to get you the best possible outcome while being cognizant of the cost to you. 

Since every family’s circumstances are so different, it would be nearly impossible to predict the cost of a divorce, which is why most divorce attorneys bill at an hourly rate. Hourly rates can vary from firm to firm but typically are based upon the experience of the attorney and the reputation of the firm. Paralegals and law clerks bill at a lower hourly rate and therefore can be used as a cost-saving tool. In addition to paying an hourly rate, most reputable law firms will require a retainer fee, which is an upfront lump-sum payment in order to secure the attorney’s services for your case. The retainer is placed into the lawyer’s trust fund/IOLTA account (an account that holds money on behalf of clients) and when the lawyer generates an invoice, the retainer is applied to the amount owed prior to the client having to pay additional funds. Family law attorneys in Illinois are required to generate and tender fee statements at least every 90 days, however many law firms, including ours, issue them every month.  

In addition to attorney’s fees, there are also costs associated with the divorce that are not paid to the attorney. Basic examples include filing fees, service fees, subpoena fees, and costs associated with a deposition (court reporter and transcript). Other larger costs include the cost of mediation, a guardian ad litem, evaluator, or business valuation/accounting services. Since these fees are often also based upon hourly billing, they can be unpredictable and sometimes substantial.

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