The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Act seeks to “level the playing field” between divorcing couples by requiring spouse to share the funds for legal fees. The goal of the Act is to ensure parties have equal access to representation in divorce and child custody proceedings.
Unequal access to finances is a common problem in family law cases. To “level the playing field” the Act allows the court to order one party pay the other party’s attorney fees “in an amount necessary to enable the other party to participate adequately in the litigation”.
Before the court can grant such an order, the court must first find the other party does not have sufficient access to assets or income to pay reasonable attorney fees and paying party does have the ability to pay the fees of the other party.
While this has been the law for some time now, a recent Illinois Supreme Court Decision has reinforced and emphasized the importance of creating a “level playing field”. In the case In re Marriage of Earlywine, the Court held that wife could take earned fees from her husband’s divorce attorney in order to pay her own legal expenses. The case was not one with a husband who makes all the money for the family and the wife was the stay at home mom with no income of her own for the pay decade or more. Instead, in the Earlywine case both Husband and Wife were poor and had little to no money. The money for Husband’s attorney came from money loaned to Husband from Husband’s family.
The unanimous Illinois Supreme Court decision showed just how important the public policy behind “leveling the playing field” is to the Supreme Court of Illinois. Chicago attorney, Pamela Kuzniar is calling the Supreme Court decision a big win for underdog spouses.
For more information on how the court decides who pays the attorney fees, please feel free to contact The Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859 for a free consultation. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.