Illinois’ Family Law Clients’ Bill of Rights

If you are seeking a divorce in Chicago, Illinois, it is important that you have an attorney that respects your rights. As a client in a family law matter in Illinois, your rights are outlined in Section 508(f) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which appears below.

Family Law Clients’ Rights in Illinois

(1) WRITTEN ENGAGEMENT AGREEMENT. The written engagement agreement, prepared by the counsel, shall clearly address the objectives of representation and detail the fee arrangement, including all material terms. If fees are to be based on criteria apart from, or in addition to, hourly rates, such criteria (e.g., unique time demands and/or utilization of unique expertise) shall be delineated. The client shall receive a copy of the written engagement agreement and any additional clarification requested and is advised not to sign any such agreement which the client finds to be unsatisfactory or does not understand.

(2) REPRESENTATION. Representation will commence upon the signing of the written engagement agreement. The counsel will provide competent representation, which requires legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation to handle those matters set forth in the written engagement agreement. Once employed, the counsel will act with reasonable diligence and promptness, as well as use his best efforts on behalf of the client, but he cannot guarantee results. The counsel will abide by the client’s decision concerning the objectives of representation, including whether or not to accept an offer of settlement, and will endeavor to explain any matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding representation. During the course of representation and afterwards, the counsel may not use or reveal a client’s confidence or secrets, except as required or permitted by law.

(3) COMMUNICATION. The counsel will keep the client reasonably informed about the status of representation and will promptly respond to reasonable requests for information, including any reasonable request for an estimate respecting future costs of the representation or an appropriate portion of it. The client shall be truthful in all discussions with the counsel and provide all information or documentation required to enable the counsel to provide competent representation. During representation, the client is entitled to receive all pleadings and substantive documents prepared on behalf of the client and every document received from any other counsel of record. At the end of the representation and on written request from the client, the counsel will return to the client all original documents and exhibits. In the event that the counsel withdraws from representation, or is discharged by the client, the counsel will turn over to the substituting counsel (or, if no substitutions, to the client) all original documents and exhibits together with complete copies of all pleadings and discovery within thirty (30) days of the counsel’s withdrawal or discharge.

(4) ETHICAL CONDUCT. The counsel cannot be required to engage in conduct which is illegal, unethical, or fraudulent. In matters involving minor children, the counsel may refuse to engage in conduct which, in the counsel’s professional judgment, would be contrary to the best interest of the client’s minor child or children. A counsel who cannot ethically abide by his client’s directions shall be allowed to withdraw from representation.

(5) FEES. The counsel’s fee for services may not be contingent upon the securing of a dissolution of marriage, upon obtaining custody, or be based upon the amount of maintenance, child support, or property settlement received, except as specifically permitted under Supreme Court rules. The counsel may not require a non?refundable retainer fee, but must remit back any overpayment at the end of the representation. The counsel may enter into a consensual security arrangement with the client whereby assets of the client are pledged to secure payment of legal fees or costs, but only if the counsel first obtains approval of the Court. The counsel will prepare and provide the client with an itemized billing statement detailing hourly rates (and/or other criteria), time spent, tasks performed, and costs incurred on a regular basis, at least quarterly. The client should review each billing statement promptly and address any objection or error in a timely manner. The client will not be billed for time spent to explain or correct a billing statement. If an appropriately detailed written estimate is submitted to a client as to future costs for a counsel’s representation or a portion of the contemplated services (i.e., relative to specific steps recommended by the counsel in the estimate) and, without objection from the client, the counsel then performs the contemplated services, all such services are presumptively reasonable and necessary, as well as to be deemed pursuant to the client’s direction. In an appropriate case, the client may pursue contribution to his or her fees and costs from the other party.

(6) DISPUTES. The counsel?client relationship is regulated by the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (Article VIII of the Illinois Supreme Court Rules), and any dispute shall be reviewed under the terms of such Rules.

About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).