Can I get a quick, cheap divorce in Cook County?

It depends. We say that a lot, but it's true. There are so many factors that go into getting a divorce that every case is different in some way. Basically, the more you and your spouse disagree (about things like dividing up your property or child custody and visitation), the longer it will take and the more it will probably cost. This general rule is true whether you are getting a divorce in Cook County or in a rural county downstate.

Just because you and your spouse both agree on getting a divorce, doesn't necessarily mean your divorce is "uncontested." There is still plenty of room for problems to arise. For example, if you own a home together, will it be sold and the proceeds divided evenly? Will one spouse want to keep the home and agree to buy out the other spouse's interest? Will you agree on the amount? What if you have kids? Will you agree on custody, as well as a visitation schedule? What about holidays? These things take time to iron out. And if you can't agree, the judge will set a trial date. The courts are busy and an immediate trial date is unlikely. You can expect to wait a year before you get to trial in a contested case, sometimes much longer.

We don't mean to cause anxiety, but we try to be honest about what you face in any legal situation. And the truth is that divorce is hard. It's extremely emotional, which makes every decision potentially difficult.

As for the cost, it depends on how long the case takes, and how much work the attorney has to do. Almost all family law attorneys charge an hourly rate for a divorce case. At the beginning they will probably require a retainer. This is a lump sum that you pay upfront. Your attorney sets it aside and takes out a fee as it's earned, sort of like a debit card. For example, they may ask for $2,500 upfront and charge $250 an hour. So you're paying for 10 hours at a time. You may have to refill the retainer several times.

Many people find it difficult to come up with the retainer. Attorneys work this way so they can be sure they'll get paid and won't be working for free. The hourly rate is more important, so try to focus on that rather than the amount of the retainer. An attorney in Chicago will probably charge a higher hourly fee than an attorney in a smaller county. We should also mention that it costs $300 to file for divorce, and this fee is the same in every county.

One more tip: talk to your attorney about how you will be charged and how you will be billed. Ask for detailed monthly statements so you know exactly where your money is going. Ask about their billing increments. For example, do they bill in 15-minute increments, so that even a two-minute phone call costs as much as a 15-minute phone call? What about emails? A complete understanding at the start of your case can minimize frustration later on. Disputes about fees can damage an attorney-client relationship, and if you're getting a divorce, you have enough to worry about.



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