Much Will Divorce Cost?
It is difficult to
determine how much a divorce will cost. However, after reviewing the
likely issues, your method for resolving those issues, and hearing your
philosophy of the case, a lawyer may be able to give you a range of expected
expenses. Controlling the expenses in a divorce, however, is no easy task. Many
of the factors contributing to legal costs are outside of your lawyers control.
The personality and philosophy of the your spouse’s attorney can affect the
ultimate path that your divorce takes. Additionally, the ability of the
parties to cooperate and communicate may also have a significant impact.
Your attorney is
required to provide you with a written retainer agreement identifying the costs
and hourly fees that will apply to your case. It is important that you
read this document carefully and ask questions regarding any unclear issues.
Signing a retainer agreement does not mean that you cannot fire your lawyer or
that your lawyer cannot withdraw from the case. You may change lawyers at any
time. The retainer agreement, however, will memorialize the terms of your
billing relationship with the attorney. Once you have signed the retainer
agreement, it is a legally binding and enforceable contract. Always keep a copy
of your retainer agreement for later reference.
Fees charged by
lawyers can vary from state to state and county to county. You may find a lawyer
who charges a fixed flat fee for motions after a divorce or for uncontested
proceedings where the parties have reached an agreement. In such instances, the
amount of work which must be performed by the lawyer can be easily determined.
This is a favorable payment method since you will know at the outset the total
cost of the proceeding which will allow you to budget accordingly.
In most contested
cases, you will find that lawyers will bill out their time at an hourly rate.
Although rates vary, you may expect your lawyer to bill out services at an
hourly rate between $75 and $350 per hour. Reduced hourly rates may apply
to services that are performed by associate attorneys, paralegals, law clerks or
legal assistants in your attorney’s office. Hourly rates are influenced by
your attorney’s legal experience, reputation and the demand for his/her
Lawyers may also
charge minimum fees for specific services that are billed out as part of the
divorce proceeding. For example, drafting a Motion or a Petitioner may be billed
out at a flat rate of $200. You should discuss with your lawyer any minimum fees
that may be applicable to your case.
Your lawyer may also
bill out services based on a minimum billing increment. For example, your lawyer
may bill out his or her time in twelve minute increments or two tenths of an
hour. That means for any service no matter how short, the lawyers time is
rounded up to the nearest twelve minute increment.
In addition to your
legal fees, you may be required to pay any costs that are incurred by your
lawyer that are associated with your case. Costs may included charges for any
filing fees, copies, mileage, faxing, service of papers, postage and parking. It
is important for you to review and understand the costs that you are likely to
You may also be
required to cover any costs related to necessary experts. Experts may be
used to provide medical testimony or appraisals of real estate, business assets
or personal property. Independent custody evaluators may be hired to perform a
custody study or vocational experts may be necessary to determine what financial
support is necessary. The need for experts depends greatly on the issues
of your case. You should consult with your lawyer regarding the potential need
for experts in your case and an estimate of the costs.
Your attorney may
request a "retainer fee". This is an advance payment against which any hourly
fees and/or costs are assessed. The retainer is a form of security deposit to
ensure payment of future legal fees.
Most lawyers will
require you to remain current on your legal fees. The reason for this, is that
each month the lawyer must pay offices expenses related to rent, payroll,
advertising and other overhead. Some attorneys may even require a new retainer
when the original retainer is exhausted. If you are unable to remain current,
you do have options that can be discussed with your lawyer.
Security for Fees
You may secure your
legal fees by providing a lien against a marital or non-marital asset. Be sure
to review any agreements related to security interests carefully. Moreover, if a
security interests relates to real estate, it is necessary for your attorney to
inform you that you have the right to have the agreement reviewed by separate
You may also suggest
to your attorney a wage assignment which ensures a consistent monthly payment
toward your legal fees.
Most law offices
will accept credit card payments.