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How much does a divorce cost in Illinois?

How much does a divorce cost in Illinois? Read on for everything to know about filing fees, court costs, and what impacts the cost of divorce in Illinois.

evident Editorial Team
April 2, 2024
Chicago skyline

Navigating a divorce can be a challenging and stressful journey. Among the concerns that contribute to the anxiety is the uncertainty surrounding the cost of divorce in Illinois. It's common to wonder, "How much is a divorce in Illinois?"

While providing a precise cost estimate is difficult, several common factors influence the expenses associated with a divorce in Illinois. Gaining an understanding of these factors can help alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty that come with the divorce process.

In this article, we will share:

  • The key elements that impact divorce cost in Illinois
  • Data on the average cost of divorce in Illinois
  • Resources for lower-cost divorce options

Let’s start by looking at data on the average cost of divorce in Illinois. 

Key Takeaways

The Average Cost of Divorce in Illinois

Per USA Today, the average cost of a divorce in Illinois is approximately $13,800 for cases without children. Divorces involving children may reach an average cost of $20,700. 

It is important to note, however, that each divorce is unique and the concept of an "average divorce" can be misleading. The actual cost of a divorce in Illinois can vary significantly from these reported averages.

One critical factor is whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. The cost difference between these two types of divorces can be substantial, with uncontested divorces often being significantly cheaper than the reported averages.

So, these are the average costs of divorce in Illinois, but understanding the potential cost of your divorce depends on understanding the range of factors that influence the overall divorce costs in Illinois. 

By examining these factors, you can better anticipate the financial impact of your specific divorce case.

What affects the cost of divorce in Illinois?

So, how much does a divorce cost in Illinois? Several key factors influence the answer in any given case.

Those factors include:

  • Filing fees and other court costs
  • Attorneys’ fees
  • The complexity of your divorce
  • The contentiousness of your divorce

It is helpful to know the relevant filing fees and average rates for Illinois divorce attorneys because these factors directly feed into Illinois divorce costs. 

But keep in mind that how complicated and contentious a divorce is can have an even greater impact on the total cost of divorce in Illinois. Hard-fought court battles are considerably more expensive than more simple or collaborative divorce cases.

Illinois Divorce Filing Fee

Filing fees for divorce in Illinois are about $340 - $400, but the fee varies by county. 

For instance, here are Illinois divorce filing fees for a few Illinois counties:

  • Cook County – the divorce filing fee in Cook County is $388. If your spouse files first, the cost to respond to their petition, called an Appearance, is $250. 
  • Dupage County - the filing fee for divorce in Dupage County is $348. The fee for an Appearance is $223.  

If you initiate the divorce proceeding, you must also pay for the cost of serving the divorce papers on your spouse (i.e. notifying them and providing them with the divorce paperwork you filed with the court). The fee to have the Sheriff’s office serve papers on your spouse in Cook County is $60, though this fee may vary by county.

If you file other motions with the court, additional filing fees will apply. These fees may vary by county and by the type of motion you are filing. Be sure to check our local court’s website and fee schedule to confirm the applicable filing fees in your area. 

Fee waivers in Illinois

If you cannot afford to pay the filing fees for divorce in Illinois, you can submit an Application for Waiver of Court Fees.

To qualify for a fee waiver, you will have to provide information about your income and financial circumstances. You will not have to provide info about your money or property if you receive public benefits such as SSI, SNAP, or TANF. 

How much does a divorce lawyer cost in Illinois?

Attorney fees are often the biggest component of the total cost of divorce. To understand how much a divorce attorney costs in Illinois, it is important to understand how they will charge for their services.

Fee Structures - Hourly Rates vs. Fixed Fees

Divorce lawyers in Illinois commonly use two primary fee structures: hourly rates or fixed fees. 

With hourly rates, a divorce attorney bills their client based on the amount of time the lawyer dedicates to the case. You may also be asked to pay a retainer fee, which is an initial payment from which the divorce lawyer deducts their fees.

With fixed fees, the divorce attorney quotes a flat cost at the outset of the case that covers their services. Note, though, that fixed fees work better for some cases than others. (E.g. an Illinois divorce attorney is more likely to offer a flat fee for an uncontested divorce where they can more accurately predict the amount of time they will need to spend on your case). 

Pros and cons of flat fees and hourly fees

Which fee structure works best for your case will depend on the circumstances of your divorce and your financial circumstances. 

Cost of Illinois Divorce Lawyers

The average hourly rate for Family Law lawyers in Illinois is approximately $322 per hour. It's important to note that this is just an average, though, and actual hourly rates can vary based on factors such as the lawyer's experience and prevailing market rates. Metro areas like Chicago might have higher average costs for divorce lawyers compared to other parts of Illinois.

It is helpful to know the average cost of a divorce lawyer in Illinois in terms of hourly rates. But keep in mind that the amount of time the lawyer spends on your case will have an even bigger impact on their total attorney's fees and, therefore, the overall cost of divorce in Illinois. (I.e. the $308 rate makes less of a difference than whether they spend 10 hours or 100 hours on your case). 

Thus, how complicated and how contentious your divorce is will go a long way toward determining the overall cost of your divorce.

Complicated Divorces Are Usually More Expensive

The complexity of your Illinois divorce plays a significant role in its cost. As a general rule, the more complex the divorce, the higher the potential expenses. 

One crucial distinction between uncontested and contested divorces, which we’ll explore next, although there is still a wide range even between different contested divorces.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce in Illinois

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all the key divorce issues, including child custody, child support, alimony, (also called spousal maintenance or spousal support in Illinois) and property division. 

On the other hand, a contested divorce arises when the parties cannot reach an agreement on one or more issues. Even a single unresolved matter classifies the divorce as contested.

Understanding this distinction is vital because uncontested divorces require less court oversight and are usually faster, simpler, and less expensive. The cost of an uncontested divorce in Illinois may be limited to court costs and filing fees, potentially costing less than $1,000.

Factors that Complicate an Illinois Divorce

Several factors can contribute to a more complicated divorce, such as:

  • Children: Divorces involving minor children introduce issues such as child custody and child support.
  • Alimony: Not all divorces include an alimony agreement, so cases that do have to sort through an extra element.
  • Substantial Marital Assets: When the marital estate is significant, property division becomes more complex, raising the stakes.
  • Complicated Marital Assets: Dividing complex assets like company ownership interests may require appraisals and pose challenges that a straightforward marital estate does not.

These factors introduce added complexity and can increase the overall cost of divorce in Illinois. Additionally, the level of contention and the ability to work amicably with your ex-spouse also impact the process.

Contentious Divorces Are Also More Expensive

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The level of discord in your divorce proceedings is another crucial factor that can significantly impact the cost. 

Taking a collaborative approach with your ex-spouse can often save considerable time and money during an Illinois divorce, even if an uncontested divorce is not possible for divorcing couples.

Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

Engaging in divorce mediation or other collaborative processes offers an alternative to adversarial court battles. These methods emphasize open communication, negotiation, and compromise, with the help of a neutral third-party mediator or collaborative professionals.

By choosing divorce mediation or a collaborative approach, you can minimize lawyer fees and reduce overall court costs. These methods also allow you and your ex-spouse to actively participate in shaping the outcome of your divorce rather than leaving it solely in the hands of the court.

Finding Common Ground and Cooperation

While it may not always be possible to achieve a completely amicable resolution, making efforts to find common ground and work cooperatively with your ex-spouse can yield significant benefits. Not only does it save you money and time, but it also reduces emotional strain during an already challenging process.

Maintaining open lines of communication, being willing to compromise, and prioritizing the well-being of any children involved can foster a more collaborative environment. Resolving issues through respectful dialogue and negotiation can lead to mutually acceptable solutions, reducing the need for prolonged and costly court battles.

Remember, every divorce is unique, and the level of contention can vary. By adopting a collaborative mindset and exploring alternative dispute resolution methods, you can strive for a smoother and more cost-effective divorce process in Illinois.

Lower-Cost Options for Divorce in Illinois

If you're concerned about the cost of divorce in Illinois, there are lower-cost options available to assist you with your legal needs. 

Limited-Scope Representation

With limited-scope representation, you can hire a divorce attorney to help you with specific aspects of your case. Whether it's reviewing a marital settlement agreement or providing guidance during divorce mediation, this approach allows you to tailor legal assistance to your specific needs and budget.

Legal Aid

For individuals with limited financial means, Legal Aid organizations can be a valuable resource. These organizations may offer free or low-cost legal services based on your income level. 

Illinois Legal Aid can help you find available resources through their website.

Fee Waivers

As noted above, if you're unable to afford the filing fees for your Illinois divorce, fee waivers may be available. 

By exploring limited-scope representation, seeking assistance from Legal Aid organizations, and considering fee waivers, you can access the legal support you need while managing the cost of divorce in Illinois more effectively. Remember to research and consult with relevant resources to determine eligibility and availability of these options. 

FAQs About Divorce in Illinois

How long does a divorce take in Illinois?

How long a divorce takes in Illinois can vary based on similar factors to what impacts the cost of divorce. In general, if both parties are in agreement and pursuing an uncontested divorce, the process can be finalized relatively quickly, often within a few months.

However, when a divorce becomes contested and involves disputes that require court intervention, the timeline can expand significantly. In such cases, the divorce process may take a year or more to reach a resolution. 

The complexity of the issues at hand, the court’s schedule, and the level of cooperation between the parties can all impact the timeline of a divorce in Illinois.

The Final Word on the Cost of Divorce in Illinois

So, how much is a divorce in Illinois? Let’s recap the key takeaways.

While the average cost of divorce in Illinois is around $13,800 for cases without children and $20,700 for cases with children, it's important to recognize that these figures only provide a rough estimate. The actual cost of a divorce in Illinois can vary significantly based on several factors.

To better understand the cost of your divorce, it's crucial to consider the filing fees, court costs, and attorneys' fees associated with your case. Additionally, the complexity and contentiousness of your divorce will impact the overall cost. 

Seeking guidance from an experienced Illinois divorce lawyer can prove invaluable, but if cost is a concern, there are lower-cost resources available, such as limited-scope representation and Legal Aid. These options can help make the process more affordable while still providing the necessary support. 

If you have further questions about the cost of divorce in Illinois, consider speaking with an experienced divorce lawyer. During your initial consultation, be sure to ask these questions that will help you assess whether the lawyer is the right fit for your specific needs.