Illinois Divorce and Family Law Weblog

Helping You and Your Family get through DivorceSM.
Weblog of DuPage County Attorney Raiford D. Palmer, focusing on divorce and family law.
(Copyright© 2005-2008 by Raiford D. Palmer. All rights reserved.) This blog is for advertising only and the contents are not legal advice.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Illinois Family Law -- Legal Fees -- Keeping Fees Low

My best advice is to first know what the law in Illinois provides regarding your rights and responsibilities. Second, sit down with your spouse in a neutral location (like a restaurant) where you are not likely to argue about the whys and "who-did-what to whoms" -- and work out the basic outline of your divorce on a piece of notebook paper. Then bring it to an attorney (preferably ME at 630.434.0400 Ext. 165 -grin-) and have them prepare a settlement agreement for you. Your spouse can get an attorney to review the document independently, but it is not required. Our ethics rules prevent us from representing both you and your spouse, but the spouse may choose to avoid hiring an attorney if the settlement is straightforward.

I always tell clients that they are the most important factor deciding how long and how much money it will cost. In the majority of cases, deciding a fair division of property and debt and deciding on parenting (custody and visitation) is fairly clear cut. It is up to the parties (you and your spouse) to decide whether your anger and pain about "why" and who is "at fault" will get in the way of a settlement. People should hire lawyers to help them with this process--naturally we like to make money--but trying to "get back" at your spouse through a lawyer is probably the most wasteful thing you can do. You need the money to get on with your life. We tell people that we are not in the revenge business. We won't take on a client with totally unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved. The best thing we can do for you is work out a fair deal as cheaply and quickly as possible. The divorce process is not like a fine wine--it does not get better with age!

Please call attorney Raiford Palmer at 630.434.0400 Ext. 165 for a free consultation.

We also handle many other areas of law. Don't hesitate to ask if you have any legal question.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Illinois Child Support -- Basic Law

Child support is money paid for the basic needs of the child, including food, clothing, and shelter.

The basic rule of thumb is that the non-custodial parent (the one not living with the child most of the time) will pay a percentage of net income for the care of the children to the other spouse.

First, "net income" for this purpose is defined as after-tax income from *all* sources - this means the support payor needs to add back in 401k contributions, pension contributions, and the like that are for the payor's benefit only. The payor does get credit for health insurance payments made for the child though.

Second, the percentages owed are basically as follows: 1 child = 20%; 2 children = 28%; 3 children = 32%, and so on. These are *minimum* guidelines, but the courts and divorce attorneys follow these fairly closely in most cases. The circumstances may call for a decrease or increase from these numbers, but those cases are uncommon.

Child support is payable until each child reaches age 18 or the end of high school typically, whichever happens last.

The support is paid every pay period (and can be withheld from paychecks automatically) to the other parent. No - you can't control what your spouse does with the money - you just need to have faith that the money will be spent properly. You have to remember that the other parent will have to spend money for food and shelter, as well as clothing for your child.

If the paying parent has an increase in income over 10%, the other parent can seek an increase in child support. You need to go to court to do this (but the parents could agree on the increase and enter an agreed court order, saving a good deal of hassle and expense).

Similarly, if the paying parent has a job loss or substantial decrease in income, that party can ask the court for a reduction in support.

Please remember that the support obligation only begins when someone gets a *court order*. Without an order, no one owes any support. (Sometimes back support may be owed depending on the circumstances). Also, you can't withhold support without a court order *no matter what* your ex is doing (withholding visitation, etc.).

Also, every unpaid support payment is considered an independent judgment against the paying parent--this means *every* individual missed payment accrues its own interest--at 9% per year. This can really add up over time. Also if a parent fails to pay support and forces the other parent to go to court for relief, the party forced to go to court can get the non paying parent to pay their attorney's fees. So in short--pay the support. It's a lot cheaper in the long run, and you owe it to your kids. If you have a problem like losing your job, an injury keeping you off of work, et cetera, contact our firm or another divorce lawyer in your state ASAP so we can file a petition with the Court right away. Your reduction will only date back to the date you file the petition--not the date you lost your job or got hurt.

We are a firm with a concentration in family/divorce law in the northwest Chicago suburbs, serving Cook, Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, and Will Counties.

Please call attorney Raiford Palmer at 630.434.0400 Ext. 165 for a free consultation.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Illinois Divorce Lawyer -- Legal Fees -- How much will it cost?

Again, this depends on the people involved in the case and the issues.

A simple case with modest assets and debt, no children is obviously going to be less expensive in terms of attorneys' fees and costs than a more complex case. Disputed issues will cost more--more attorney time, additional costs, et cetera. Disputes about custody for example can be very expensive when you consider that a Court might appoint a child representative and possibly a psychologist to evaluate the custody situation.

Filing Fees and Expenses

Filing fees alone in Cook County are about $270 to initiate a case, and about $100 to file an Appearance (the document filed by the Respondent or his/her attorney acknowledging that they are officially in the case). Serving the suit on a party is perhaps a $40-100 expense depending on whether you use the County Sheriff or have a private process server serve your spouse. Other costs during the case can include copy charges, deposition charges, mileage, tolls, and parking for court appearances, and more. Expect at least $500 in costs for the basic case, perhaps $1000 and up for more complex cases.

Attorneys' Fees

These vary by attorney and case, but you can expect a range of perhaps $200-300 per hour depending on the attorney's experience, location (city vs. suburbs) and so on. Some attorneys like our firm will bill a flat fee for uncontested cases. It makes sense to shop around for an attorney you can get along with and charges a reasonable fee. While hourly fees may seem excessive, remember that the lawyer isn't pocketing the entire fee--a lot of that money covers rent, employees, insurance and so on. Be sure to ask about how the fees are charged--are you billed in tenths of an hour (six minutes), or quarter hours? These are minimum charges. For example, if you call a lawyer billing you .1 hours (six minutes) minimum and talk for five minutes, you are billed .1 hours. But have the same conversation with a firm charging a minimum of .25 hours and you just paid almost triple for the same call. So even though the rate may be better, you need to look at the minimum increment as well.

Please call attorney Raiford Palmer at 630.434.0400 Ext. 165 for a free consultation.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Illinois Divorce -- Representing both Spouses

We can't represnt both spouses in a divorce case. Ethics rules and good sense prevent us from representing both you and your spouse. The potential for conflicts of interest is too great. BUT--we can represent one party and the other party may or may not choose to get an attorney--this *may* be appropriate in cases where the divorce is uncontested and very simple (like one with no childred involved, and a simple half-and-half division of assets and debt). In this situation we must represent only one person but we will point the other party to the relevant law where a question arises or explain a provision in a settlement agreement if asked. In that case we have the non represented party sign a letter stating they understand that they have the right to retain counsel at any time and that they know we do not represent them. We think this avoids the conflict problem of dual representation while providing economy for couples with simple divorces.

The bottom line is--it is always better to get independent counsel. But sometimes, you have a very simple divorce and you want to economize. In that case, where the parties agree on settlement terms, having an attorney for only one party to prepare all of the documents and handle the prove-up hearing (the final hearing where you actually get divorced) can make a lot of sense.

Please call 630.434.0400 Ext. 165 for a free consultation any time.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Illinois Divorce Law -- How long will my divorce case take?

This entry will detail some information about what you can expect from filing a divorce case in Cook, Lake, McHenry, DuPage, and Kane Counties in Illinois. Those are the areas where our firm has extensive experience with family law matters.

Every client or potential cleint wants to know how long it will take to get a divorce, modify a judgment, collect on back child support, et cetera.

The short answer honestly is--we don't know. Well, we can guess, but so much depends on the parties and their willingness to deal. If you have a couple willing to strike a deal with respect to division of assets and debt, custody, child support, maintenance, and the like, and do it promptly, a case can move very quickly. Where we see the couple can resolve their differences, we recommend simply negotiating a settlement and signing all of the necessary documents ahead of time, prior to filing suit. Suit is only filed when everything is resolved and ready to go. In that case you can usually get what is known as a "prove-up" (settled divorce hearing) date within a few weeks depending on the Court's schedule. We can put the basic document package together in about two weeks or so, depending on the complexity of the divorce (kids/no kids, a lot of assets and debt/minimal assets, etc.).

This saves a tremendous amount of expense because the Court sets automatic hearing dates where at least one party's attorney must appear--costing you money. And these dates can be as often as every thirty days, so you get the idea. The only reasons to file suit prior to reaching a settlement are when no settlement can be reached in a reasonable period of time (or at all), or where circumstances demand it (one party is cut off from finances, physical abuse).

We offer a flat fee deal for agreed divorces, with the caveat that in the event the case becomes contested we are paid by the hour for the additional work. Hopefully this accomplishes two things: one, it encourages our client to try to settle the case; and two, it covers us in terms of expense if the case somehow becomes contested.

So to answer the question finally, an agreed case can take a total time (from hiring our firm to resolution) of as little as two months. Contested cases have run anywhere from a year to two years. It all depends on whether the clients dispute something, and the nature of that dispute (child custody for example can be a very expensive and time-consuming dispute due to the need for hiring a child representative or guardian, child custody evaluation, et cetera).

Call any time at 630.434.0400 Ext. 165 to schedule a meeting with me or to ask a question.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


My name is Raiford Palmer. I am a partner at the law firm of Momkus McCluskey Monroe Marsh & Spyratos, LLC. I've been a lawyer since 1994, practicing in civil litigation as well as business law. Family law is a primary focus of my practice. Our firm is located in Downers Grove, DuPage County, Illinois. (Please see the firm website for contact information).

I have tried many cases to verdict (and judgment), had many arbitrations, and a wide range of litigation and business law experience before I began family law work several years ago. I am licensed to practice law before the Illinois courts, as well as the U.S. District Court, and I am a member of the Federal Trial Bar. I am a member of the DuPage County Bar Association, and Illinois State Bar Association.
We've successfully resolved many divorce and family law cases.

This weblog hopefully provides some insight into our practice and hopefully help our clients and prospective clients with family/divorce law issues. Please feel free to email our firm or call with any questions you may have. This blog is updated approximately monthly, sometimes more often as new information of interest to our clients becomes available.