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The Tragedy of the Overly Expensive Illinois Divorce

Divorces cost too much. I have practiced long enough in Illinois to understand that the process in the Illinois Court system of divorcing and reaching custody determinations takes too long, and costs the divorcing parties too much. My fees for divorce cases, including those that reach trial are always a fraction of that of my opponent’s fees, and I work hard to keep costs down for my clients, but I still feel that the present system promotes delay, stress and cost for families. Why is this so, and how can all of us in the system work to change it?

First, the process itself is inefficient. Divorce cases are filed, and the courts set lengthy periods in which the opposing parties appear to set case management schedules. Then there is the endless march of discovery: Marital Interrogatories and lengthy and cumbersome Requests to Produce Documents, subpoenas of bank and credit card records that the parties won’t produce voluntarily, depositions, motions, hearings over temporary issues: all of this activity which is billed to the client by the hour.

If the case can’t settle, there is trial preparation. Finally, months later, the trial date, whereupon the judge sets a pretrial conference in chambers and the lawyers and judge work toward settlement with the judge’s input. The lawyers then go out into the courtroom hallway and work with their clients under the pressure of the trial setting and try to settle the case.

Mark Baer’s article, cited below, suggests mediation as an avenue for reaching earlier, cost effective settlement. As a mediator myself, I’m a proponent of mediation, but I disagree with Mr. Baer as to the efficacy of mediation in a complex or contested case. Mediation requires the absolute willingness on the part of both parties to reach settlement, and the parties need to have the emotional and logical balance to mediate. If one party is resistant, or confused, or feels stress, mediation tends to fail. My recommendation is the “Cooperative Divorce.” I have trained in and taught cooperative divorce for years; it’s an efficient, lower cost methodology of getting to resolution that does not involve active litigation but does allow for the intervention of the settlement judge, during the cooperative process, if needed.

Please contact my office at (331) 222-9161 if you’d like more information about my Cooperative Divorce strategies.

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