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Key Takeaways

  • The cost of a divorce in Illinois depends on factors such as complexity, attorney fees, court costs, and county.
  • Divorce has a significant emotional cost that can affect individuals, children, work performance, personal relationships, and mental health.
  • Some unavoidable costs in an Illinois divorce include filing fees, attorney fees, mediation fees, court costs, appraisal fees, and counseling fees.
  • Attorneys in divorce cases can use either hourly billing or fixed fee billing, each with its advantages and disadvantages.
  • In a divorce case, clients need to pay a retainer fee upfront to retain an attorney's services, which varies depending on the attorney's experience, reputation, and hourly rate.

The cost of a divorce in Illinois can vary depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the case, the attorney's fees, and court costs. Generally, an uncontested divorce in Illinois can cost between $1,000 to $5,000, while a contested divorce can cost significantly more, ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 or more.  

The cost of a divorce in Illinois can also depend on the county where the case is filed. Court filing fees can range from $200 to $400, and additional fees may be for service of process, mediation, and other court-related expenses.  

It's essential to note that some legal firms offer fixed-fee or flat-fee divorce services that can provide a more predictable cost for the divorce process. However, it's crucial to research and compare the different options before choosing a legal representative.  


Emotional Cost  


The emotional cost of a divorce can be significant and long-lasting, affecting not just the individuals going through the divorce but also their family, friends, and children. Divorce is often accompanied by feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty about the future.  

One of the most challenging aspects of divorce is the emotional toll it can take on the individuals involved. Separating from a long-term partner, dividing assets, and establishing new living arrangements can all be emotionally draining and challenging to navigate. There may also be feelings of guilt or blame, and it can be hard to find closure and move on after a divorce.  

Divorce can also significantly impact children, who may feel confused, scared, and uncertain about their future. Children may struggle to adjust to new living arrangements and cope with the changes that come with divorce. As a result, it's crucial to prioritize the emotional well-being of children during and after the divorce process. For more information on how to handle the emotional cost of divorce read our article, Tips on Preparing Your Children for Divorce.  

The emotional cost of a divorce can also impact work performance, personal relationships, and mental health. It's essential to seek support from family, friends, and mental health professionals to cope with the emotional challenges of divorce and work towards healing and moving forward.  


Unavoidable Costs in an Illinois divorce  


Divorce can be a complex and costly process, and in Illinois, several unavoidable costs are associated with a divorce. Some of the unavoidable costs of divorce in Illinois include the following:  

Filing Fees: There are mandatory filing fees for filing a divorce petition in Illinois. The cost of filing a divorce petition in Illinois can vary by county but typically ranges from $200-$400.  

Attorney Fees: Most couples will need to hire an attorney to help them navigate the divorce process. It's important to understand that attorney fees can be a significant expense in a divorce. Attorney fees can vary depending on the complexity of the case and the amount of time required to resolve the issues.  

Mediation Fees: If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on issues such as property division, child custody, and support, you may need to hire a mediator. The cost of mediation can vary but typically ranges from $100-$300 per hour.  

Court Costs: There are several court-related costs associated with a divorce, including court reporter fees, transcripts, and document copying fees.  

Appraisal Fees: If you and your spouse cannot agree on the value of your property or assets, you may need to hire an appraiser. The cost of hiring an appraiser can vary depending on the type of property being appraised.  

Counseling Fees: Divorce can be emotionally challenging, and many couples may benefit from counseling or therapy. Counseling fees can vary depending on the counseling type and the session length.  

It's important to note that while these costs may be unavoidable, there are ways to minimize the expenses associated with divorce. For example, couples who can work together to resolve their issues can avoid costly court battles and reduce the overall cost of the divorce process.  


Hourly vs. Fixed Fee Billing  

Regarding billing in divorce cases, attorneys typically use two standard methods: hourly billing and fixed fee billing.  

Hourly billing is when an attorney charges their client for the time spent working on their case, usually in 6 or 15-minute increments. The attorney's experience, expertise, and geographic location determine the hourly rate. Clients who are billed hourly receive monthly invoices detailing the services provided and the time spent on each task. This billing method is typically used in more complex cases where predicting the amount of work required is difficult.  

On the other hand, fixed fee billing is when an attorney charges a flat fee for a specific service or package of services, regardless of the time spent on the case. This billing method is commonly used for more straightforward, routine cases where the attorney can estimate the required time and work. Clients billed a fixed fee usually pay the fee upfront, and the attorney will complete the agreed-upon services within a set timeline.  

Each billing method has its advantages and disadvantages. Hourly billing allows for greater flexibility and transparency, as clients can see exactly how their money is spent. However, it can also lead to higher costs if the complex case requires much time and effort. Fixed fee billing provides clients with more predictable costs and can be more cost-effective for simple cases but may not cover unexpected issues or additional work that may arise during the case.  

Ultimately, the billing method an attorney uses will depend on the complexity of the case, the attorney's preferences, and the client's needs and budget. It's essential for clients to understand the billing method their attorney uses and to clearly understand the fees and costs associated with their case before proceeding.  

couple talking to attorney looking at a laptop

Divorce Attorney Retainer Costs  


In a divorce case, a retainer fee is a sum of money paid upfront to the attorney to secure their services for the duration of the case. The purpose of a retainer fee is to ensure that the attorney has the financial resources to begin work on the case and to cover future legal fees.  

Retainer fees vary depending on the attorney's hourly rate, experience, and the case's complexity. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for the entire divorce case, while others charge an hourly rate.  


When paying a retainer fee, the client and attorney will sign a retainer agreement outlining the scope of work to be performed, the hourly rate or fixed fee, and the payment terms. The retainer agreement may also include provisions for refunding any unused retainer funds at the end of the case.  

Divorce Attorney Hourly Rates  


The hourly rate for a divorce attorney varies depending on several factors, such as the attorney's experience, reputation, and location. In Illinois, the hourly rate for a divorce attorney can range from $150 to $500 per hour, with the average hourly rate being around $300.  

However, it's important to note that the hourly rate is not the only factor to consider when choosing a divorce attorney. It's also important to consider the attorney's level of experience and expertise in divorce law, their track record of success, their availability to take on your case, and their overall approach to handling divorce cases.  

Some divorce attorneys may also offer alternative fee arrangements, such as flat fees or contingency fees, depending on the specifics of your case. It's important to discuss fee arrangements with your attorney upfront to ensure you understand the costs involved and can make an informed decision about hiring them.  


Different Types of Separation in Illinois




An Illinois uncontested divorce is a type of divorce where both parties agree to all the divorce terms, including property division, child custody and support, and spousal support. Since there is no dispute between the parties, an uncontested divorce can be faster and less expensive than a contested divorce. On average, an uncontested divorce in Illinois can cost between $1,000 and $5,000.  



Mediation in divorce is when a neutral third party helps the couple work through the divorce issues and reach a settlement agreement. The mediator doesn't make decisions for the couple but instead facilitates communication and helps them reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation can be a less expensive and less stressful alternative to going to court, and it can help the couple maintain control over the outcome of their divorce.  

Generally, divorce mediation in Illinois can cost between $100 to $400 per hour, with an average total cost ranging from $2,500 to $7,500. However, some mediators offer flat fees for their services, ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the case's complexity.  




A contested divorce is a legal proceeding where one or both spouses cannot agree on one or more issues related to the divorce, such as child custody, division of property, or spousal support. This type of divorce can be emotionally and financially draining and typically involves a lengthy court process. It may require the intervention of attorneys, expert witnesses, and judges to resolve the issues in dispute. On average, a contested divorce can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 or more, including attorney's fees and court costs.  


Other Factors That Affect the Cost of Divorce in Illinois  


Alimony and children can significantly affect the cost of divorce in Illinois. Determining child custody, support, and visitation arrangements can be complex and time-consuming, leading to increased legal fees. Similarly, determining the amount and duration of spousal support (alimony) can also require significant negotiation and legal expertise, adding to the overall cost of the divorce.  

A trial or a contested property division can also significantly impact the cost of divorce in Illinois. In cases where the divorcing parties cannot reach a settlement agreement and a trial is necessary, the cost of the divorce can increase significantly. The more complex the property division is, the more time and resources will be required to resolve the issues, which can also drive up the cost of the divorce.  

person taking wedding band off of finger

Who Pays for Divorce?  

In most cases, each spouse is responsible for paying their own attorney's fees and costs in a divorce. However, the specific arrangements may vary depending on the situation. For instance, one spouse may be required to pay the other spouse's attorney's fees and costs if they have a significantly higher income or greater access to marital assets. Additionally, some couples may agree to share the divorce costs equally, or the court may order one spouse to pay a portion of the other spouse's attorney's fees and costs. Ultimately, it is up to the parties involved and the court to determine who pays for the divorce.  

Cheapest Way to Get a Divorce in Illinois  


The cheapest way to get a divorce in Illinois is through an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all issues, including division of assets, custody and support of children, and alimony. This eliminates the need for lengthy court battles and expensive legal fees, making it a more affordable option. Other cost-effective options include mediation and collaborative divorce.  


Overall, the cost of a divorce in Illinois can vary depending on many factors, and it's advisable to consult with an experienced divorce attorney to get a better idea of the expected cost of your specific case.

April 3, 2023
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