Finding the Right Lawyer for You

May 13, 2024



Even in an amicable uncontested divorce, hiring a lawyer is crucial. A divorce attorney can help navigate the complexities of Illinois law, ensure your rights are protected, and help you craft a fair and legally sound divorce settlement. However, choosing the right lawyer for your situation and budget requires careful consideration and research.


Why a Lawyer is Essential, Even in an Uncontested Divorce


  • Understanding Your Rights: Divorce, property division, and child support laws (if applicable) in Illinois can be complex. A lawyer helps you understand the legal implications of the decisions you and your spouse are making.
  • Avoiding Costly Mistakes: An amicable split today doesn’t guarantee your ex won’t challenge poorly defined terms down the line. A lawyer helps you avoid ambiguities that could lead to future disputes and additional legal expenses.
  • Drafting Clear Agreements: Your divorce settlement agreement is a legally binding contract. An attorney can draft precise and enforceable language that supports your interests.
    Court Approval: Illinois courts appreciate well-drafted agreements, expediting the approval process of your uncontested divorce and smoothing your transition into your new life.


Understanding Lawyer Fee Structures


Before meeting with any potential attorneys, familiarize yourself with the standard ways divorce lawyers charge for their services:

  • Hourly Rates: The most common billing structure, attorneys charge for their time in increments (typically 15 minutes or 6 minutes), and you’ll receive detailed statements. Hourly rates can vary based on the lawyer’s experience, location, and the complexity of your case.
  • Flat Fees: Some lawyers may offer a flat fee for handling an entire uncontested divorce case. This option provides budgeting predictability but ensure it covers all the services you’ll need and if additional complexities will trigger increased fees.
  • Retainer: This is an up-front payment to secure legal representation. The lawyer then bills their time against this retainer until it’s depleted, at which point you replenish it, if you have chosen an attorney who charges an hourly rate. For a lawyer who charges a flat fee, it is the deposit required before the lawyer begins working on your case.


Making the Most of Your Consultations


Most attorneys offer initial consultations (sometimes free, sometimes for a fee). To make the most of this time, prepare these key questions:


  1. Experience: Specifically, ask how many uncontested divorce cases the lawyer has handled, especially ones in St. Clair County, Illinois. Inquire about the outcomes of comparable cases.
  2. Fee Structure: How does your billing structure work (hourly, flat fee)? What do you estimate the total cost for a case like mine might be? Do you require a retainer, and if so, how much? Do you offer payment plans?
  3. Philosophy on Case Handling: How involved will I be in the drafting of agreements? What is your approach if unexpected conflicts or disagreements arise with my spouse? How often will you communicate progress and updates?
  4. Additional Costs: Beyond attorney fees, what other potential expenses might there be, such as court filing fees or the cost of a mediator?
  5. General Guidance (Not Specific Advice): Understand that attorneys cannot provide specific legal advice tailored to your case until they are formally hired. However, asking general questions about Illinois divorce law can help you gauge their knowledge and expertise.
  6. Important Tip: Speak with at least 2-3 attorneys before making your decision. This allows you to compare not only their fees but their expertise, communication style, and whether you feel comfortable working with them.


The Hiring Process: What to Expect


Once you’ve chosen your attorney, here’s what to anticipate when formally engaging their services:

  1. Engagement Letter or Contract: This contract outlines the scope of the lawyer’s representation, the agreed-upon fee structure, and your responsibilities as a client. Read this carefully before signing and ask any questions you need to.
  2. Retainer (If Applicable): Your attorney will likely require an upfront payment, so be prepared for this expense.
  3. Thorough Case Discussion: Now that you’ve hired them, provide your lawyer with all of the information you’ve gathered regarding your assets, debts, income, and any initial agreements you might have with your spouse.


Resources for Finding Attorneys in St. Clair County

  • The Internet: Most attorneys have a website that outlines the types of cases they handle and has contact information. Look through several. You will find some are generic, some convey that the attorney is not comfortable with modern technology, and others, like mine, are full of information.
  • Word-of-Mouth Referrals: Ask friends, family, or trusted colleagues who have gone through a divorce if they have positive recommendations.
  • Google Reviews: Look through the reviews about the attorneys you call. Read the negative reviews to see if there is a pattern, or if it appears to be an angry former client who lost. See how the attorney handles the negative reviews by offering to discuss the problems or ignores it. When you read the positive reviews, look for descriptions that match what you need. If you want a serious attorney, look for those keywords. If you want a friendly attorneys, look for those keywords.


Investing in a Smooth Process

While an uncontested divorce often has lower legal costs, view hiring an attorney as an investment in your future financial and emotional stability. The right lawyer can reduce stress, minimize costly mistakes, and ensure a successful outcome for your divorce


If you want an attorney to take your agreements and turn them into your divorce for a reasonable price, reach out. You will see why I have positive google reviews for the work I do. I am a call or click away.


Disclaimer: This blog post provides general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified professional.