How Long Does Divorce Take? A Time Frame

The time frame for a divorce:

The time frame in divorce cases depends on two issues: the complexity of the issues and the attitude of the parties; The simplest divorce can take a month but its “all in the details”: No children, no marital property or debts, no reason for maintenance (alimony or spousal support) because both parties can support him/her self and most important both want to be divorced and will sign off in advance. This is in the best of worlds and the costs are the filing fees, appearance fees, and in most cases court reporters (various between 400-600, depending on which Illinois County has jurisdiction). This is the court costs, the legal fees depend on the time that it takes to the attorney to get the paperwork (Petition, Appearance, Response, Stipulation to hear as a default matter, Stipulation to waive the 2 years requirement for Irreconcilable differences as the grounds, motion and order to set hearing, Agreement (Marital Settlement Agreement) Judgment, and clerk statistic form) Remember this is the time line and documents for the simplest, fastest, and least expensive divorce.

Once you add children which involves
1. custody & visitation issues,
2. child support (a payment that is set based on the non custodial parent’s net income)
3. division of the child care payments that is needed for the custodial parent to work (assuming he or she is capable of working . . . and
4. if not there is liability for supporting (alimony, maintenance, or spousal support) the custodial parent in addition to the child support, the payment of insurance for the benefit of the children (Health & Life),
5. the division of unreimbursed or extra ordinary health or educational expenses) and
6. Finally the whole issue of college and attorney’s fees.
This is only when there are children who are either minors or still in school.

Next is the issue of Spousal support (maintenance or alimony): if the parties have very difference earning abilities or one is not working (or worst disabled) then there is a question of how much the better earnings spouse should pay to lesser or non earning spouse and for how long (and this is in addition to child support expenses);

Finally there are property and debt issues: what is marital and non marital; what portion of the marital property should be given to each. Was that 40lk earned or partially earned during the marriage and how to divide.

From these brief comments, you can see that unless the divorce is simple, there is no hard answer to the question of how long it will take or how expensive it will cost for a more complex divorce. Lawyers work on an hourly basis and generally require a deposit (called a retainer); Rates per hour depend on the experiences of the attorney. The more experienced the less time it will take and the more the hourly rate (the theory is that a lower hourly rate denotes a less experience, less hands on attorney, will require more time); The retainer is the attorney’s best guess on how much time and expense it will take to get to a point of determining the complexity and attitude of the opposing attorney and client. There is an art to determining who much retainer to require. You don’t want to be called to replenish the retainer in the very beginning of the case and you don’t want your attorney to stop working so early in the case, that the momentum is lost, simply because your attorney is waiting for you to catch up . . . my advice, discuss the case first, let the attorney tell you what he/she thinks the issues will be once you have made a “complete” disclosure of the issues, financial & personal. The retainer will be very easy to understand once the initial discussion has begun. To make your attorney quote you in advance of a meeting, limits both you and the attorney and will never be in your advantage. I can’t tell you the number of times that I am in a case and the opposing attorney tell me, that he or she cannot go further until paid and the entire case stops. At the same time, it would be unfair for you to waste the attorney’s time, if you cannot pay a retainer. This is preliminary. No attorney is going to give legal advice, if you are just shopping. The attorney’s time is his/her stock in trade. . . you wouldn’t expect to go to a grocery store and open the inventory, have lunch and leave without paying.

My personal policy is to determine that a client is serious about engaging me, and ready to retain. Then I will meet for 15 minutes more or less to determine if the client and I are going to work well together (do we really communicate and do I understand the motivation and goals of the client); after that we discuss the details and I expect a retainer to be deposited
(c)all rights reserved ARNOLD D GOLDSTEIN 2009