There are two questions that divorce lawyers cannot easily answer:
- How much will it cost?
- How long will it take?
That’s because almost all divorce cases are unique.
The primary driver of cost in a divorce case relates to the level of litigiousness of parties to a divorce. I have read most of the works by Bill Eddy. He is a psychologist and lawyer who writes and publishes extensively for other lawyers. He states that the primary driver for cases that have to be tried is that one spouse has a high-conflict personality. These can break down into certain types referred to as “Cluster B.” These include antisocial, borderlines, and narcissistic personalities. Think of these personality types as spectrums with some individuals having certain Cluster B traits while others might have full-fledged personality disorders.
Bill Eddy recommends that it is helpful to have a “private working theory” about the personality type that one’s spouse may have because there are certain tools that can help a client navigate a case involving a high-conflict spouse. In a divorce the client can only control himself or herself. That means: one can control what one does and how one responds.
If litigation is necessary fee petitions at the conclusion of the case can serve to address the overly litigious divorcing spouse to a degree. An overlooked provision in Illinois divorce law states:
If at any time a court finds that a hearing under this Act was precipitated or conducted for any improper purpose, the court shall allocate fees and costs of all parties for the hearing to the party or counsel found to have acted improperly. Improper purposes include, but are not limited to, harassment, unnecessary delay, or other acts needlessly increasing the cost of litigation.
We are beginning to see a body of caselaw that penalizes a lawyer when he or she can control the overly litigious client who takes “scorched earth” strategies that serve mainly to drive up the cost of representation. This is a welcome development that can be of aid in some high-conflict divorce cases.
I drafted the forward for an excellent book that focuses on what really drives the cost of divorce: “I Just Want This Done: How Smart, Successful People Get Divorced Without Losing Their Kids, Money, and Minds.” Read this book and you may be well on your way to a a less costly divorce understanding how to work effectively with your divorce lawyer and best navigate the system!