When Does a Court Award Attorney Fees in Family Law?

Attorney Fees

The Mythical Unicorn of Attorney Fees

Has the idea of being awarded attorney fees ever felt like a mythical unicorn, something people claim to have seen but never experienced themselves? It can be disheartening for individuals going through a divorce or family law case, especially those with limited financial resources. They hope that if they successfully win their case, the court will order the opposing party to reimburse them for their legal expenses. But is this just wishful thinking?

The Unique Factors at Play

In family law cases in Illinois, courts do have the discretion to award attorney fees to one party or the other. However, the final decision depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each case. So, while seeking attorney fees is a possibility, it’s important to understand that certain factors may increase your chances of being awarded them. Here are a few:

1. Income Disparity: The Great Equalizer

Imagine a scenario where one spouse barely has enough to get by while the other enjoys a six-figure salary. Such a gross disparity in earning power can significantly sway the court’s decision in your favor. The court may consider it fair and just to award you the reasonable attorney fees you incurred.

2. The Delay Game: Justice vs. Financial Strain

If your spouse is deliberately dragging out the resolution of your family law case without a valid reason, the court takes notice. It considers the impact this has on your financial situation. Delaying or frustrating justice can tilt the scales in your favor and increase the likelihood of receiving attorney fees.

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3. Winning Matters: The Sweet Taste of Victory

When you succeed in your case, such as successfully modifying the parenting time and visitation arrangement, the court is more inclined to award you attorney fees. However, if there are no clear “winners” or if you do not prevail, the court will likely require each party to cover their own legal expenses.

4. The Reasonable Factor: A Judgment Call

Even if the above factors are present, the court may still decline to order the payment of all your fees. If the court believes that you intentionally hired an exorbitantly expensive attorney just to increase the financial burden on the other party, it may limit the fee award. Similarly, if you unnecessarily escalated your attorney’s bill, the court may deny payment for those excessive fees.

How to Secure Attorney Fees: The Key Steps

To increase your chances of recovering attorney fees from the other party, it’s vital to take the right approach. One of the biggest mistakes litigants make is failing to ask the court to award fees at the beginning of the case. It’s crucial to notify and provide an opportunity for the other party to be heard before the court orders them to pay your attorney fees. Waiting until the conclusion of the case to request fee reimbursement may leave you empty-handed.

At Garrity Traina, we are dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of our clients in DuPage County and throughout Illinois. Our experienced family law lawyers can guide you through the process of seeking attorney fees and advocate passionately on your behalf. Contact us today to discover how our firm can support you in your family law matter.

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Source: Illinois General Assembly