Interim Attorney’s Fees – “Leveling The Playing Field”

By Scott Tzinberg

If your spouse controls most of the marital assets and prevents you from accessing those assets for purposes of retaining your divorce lawyer, you can seek expedited relief from the Court so that you can gain access to those assets and retain an attorney to represent your interests.

750 ILCS 5/501 (c-1), also referred to as “leveling the playing field,” addresses the situation described above. Prior to 501(c-1) being enacted, a request for fees from your spouse required a full evidentiary hearing on the income and assets. This involved calling witnesses, presenting evidence and convincing the Court that your spouse could and should pay for your attorney’s fees. As such, those who did not have access to funds or property had to not only file a Petition asking the other party to contribute to their fees but they had to find a lawyer who would dedicate the time to the preparation and presentation of the evidence at a hearing.

501(c-1) provides that the issue of interim attorney’s fees be heard on a non-evidentiary and expedited basis. This means that the Court can expedite the issue and rule based only on its review of financial affidavits and oral arguments of the parties. Aside from the pleadings and financial affidavits, usually no additional evidence is needed during the Hearing.

After filing a Petition requesting interim attorney’s fees, the other party must file a response and disclose how much they have paid to their counsel. The Court uses this information as well as the financial affidavits to determine what, if anything, the responding spouse must advance from the marital assets to pay for the moving person’s fees and costs.

Section 501 (c-1) also covers one person’s request that the other party pay the cost of retaining an expert or to pay specific court costs.

Therefore, if you don’t control the marital assets or have a resource to borrow funds, then, you can utilize Section 501(c-1) and request that the Court “level the playing field” and direct your spouse to pay your attorney fees, pay for your expert or cover court costs. The Hearing and ruling on this issue should be expedited and the hearing non-evidentiary.

Categories: Divorce and Separation.