How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost? Divorce can be stressful, overwhelming, and costly. No matter what your current financial situation is, one thing is clear, getting a divorce will likely cost you a substantial amount of money.
Before you begin the process of filing for divorce, it is important to know “how much does a divorce lawyer”? cost and if there are ways to save money on legal fees.
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?
Every divorce case is different. Your exact costs cannot be calculated in advance. However, on average, Divorce lawyers charge $3k–$5k just to get started on your case, and an additional $300–$500 per hour on top of that. That’s not including court fees and other costs associated with divorce. In general, uncontested divorces are less expensive than contested divorces.
How Do Divorce Lawyers Charge for Fees?
Just as there’s no universal, coast-to-coast number as to what a divorce lawyer will cost, there’s no single format that every lawyer uses to assess their fees. However, some arrangements are pretty common. Some lawyers will charge you by the hour for their services, but in most cases, they’ll require that you pay a retainer fee upfront.
The money is typically laced in a special trust bank account, and then they bill their time against the fee. They’ll pay for any court and other costs from the money too, such as filing fees for your divorce complaint or petition and appraisal fees.
For example, your lawyer might ask for a $5,000 retainer and perform services for you at an hourly rate of $300. They might devote 12 hours to your case in the first month. That totals $3,600, so your available retainer fee will drop to $1,400.
You may have to put down another retainer fee if the first one runs out before the case is finalized, but divorce lawyers can often gauge upfront how much time they’ll have to invest in successfully ending your marriage. You should receive a statement every month showing what’s been billed and subtracted from your retainer fee.
Types Of Legal Divorce Lawyer Fees
There are a variety of different types of legal fees that a lawyer may charge, including:
A lawyer may charge by the hour. This is a common way divorce lawyers bill. The lawyer’s hourly rate is multiplied by the number of hours that he or she worked. For example, if the lawyer’s hourly rate is $300 and he or she worked four hours on the case during the billing cycle, the client may be billed $1,200.
Some lawyers charge a different rate for different types of work, such as conducting legal research, in comparison to appearing in court. Senior partners may have a higher hourly rate than junior associates. Additionally, the client may be billed a separate hourly rate for legal support, such as a paralegal or legal secretary assistance.
Some lawyers may apply a flat fee to a case. This is the basic amount that the lawyer charges for a certain type of case. For example, he or she may say that an uncontested divorce will cost $1,000, while a contested divorce may cost $5,000. A flat fee is generally based on how much time the lawyer can reasonably expect to spend on a case. Certain flat fee agreements may include provisions regarding when this fee may be adjusted, such as if a special issue arises or a case switches from uncontested to contested midstream.
A contingency fee is when a lawyer’s ability to get paid for his or her time is contingent on the client achieving a successful outcome of his or her case, either by a judge’s or jury’s award or a settlement. Contingency fees are not common in family law cases and may be barred by the state rules of professional conduct even when economic issues are at play, such as basing the fee on a certain percentage of child support or spousal support awards. As a matter of public policy, divorce cases are often prohibited from being based on a contingency fee.
Some family law lawyers provide a free consultation in which the lawyer discusses the process of divorce, what legal issues will be decided, the possible strengths and weaknesses of the fee, and how a lawyer can help.
Other Fees and Costs Associated with Divorce
The average overall cost of a divorce in the United States is about $15,000. In most cases, legal fees capture the lion’s share of the costs associated with divorce. However, other costs like court fees, the cost of evaluators, mediation costs, etc. will quickly add up. Learn more about each below.
Child Custody Evaluation
Divorce costs are greatly affected when the judge orders a child custody evaluation or one is requested by either spouse. Child custody evaluations are more likely in cases where couples are unable to agree on the terms of their parenting plan by themselves, in mediation, or in some other form of non-adversarial negotiation.
Filing fees for divorce vary widely. Depending on your state, fees can range from $70 to more than $350. You can learn your exact fee by checking the state website or contacting the clerk’s office. The clerk’s office also provides you with other information, such as the documents you need and where to find them.
Mediation is a non-adversarial method of resolving divorce disputes with the hope of not having to go to trial. You and your spouse can voluntarily attend mediation, or it can be court-ordered. During mediation sessions, a professionally trained mediator, lawyer-mediator, or judge acts as an impartial third party whose primary concern is to help both sides come to a settlement agreement.
Some courts offer fee waivers and discounts to couples who can’t afford the cost of a mediator. The average cost of a mediator is about $200 per hour. Attorneys are not required for the mediation process. However, it is typically in your best interest to consult your lawyer before the mediation sessions begin and again before any agreement is signed. Depending on the type of agreement you have with your lawyer, this can dramatically increase the overall cost of mediation.
What Does a Divorce Lawyer Do?
Divorce Laws and procedures can vary from state to state. A lawyer can fill you in on the laws and rules in your area and help you understand how they’ll affect your particular case. Find the information you need to know before working with a divorce lawyer.
They’ll file the complaint or petition for divorce, or they’ll respond to a complaint or petition that your spouse has already filed. Numerous other documents will most likely have to be filed with the court as your divorce case progresses.
In legal terms, discovery means gathering all pertinent facts and information. This can include appraisals and something called “interrogatories,” which require that your spouse answer a list of detailed questions regarding assets, debts, and other pertinent issues.
Mediation And Settlements
A divorce lawyer may also act as a mediator to help resolve disputes between the parties and facilitate a settlement. A parenting plan must be worked out if you have children, and custody and parenting time are at issue. This can include mediation. Your lawyer will prepare you in advance so you can get as much out of the process as possible.
Protect Their clients Right
A divorce lawyer will work to protect their client’s legal rights and ensure that they receive a fair settlement that is in their best interests.
Represent Their Client in Court
If the divorce case goes to trial, a divorce lawyer will represent their client in court and present evidence to support their case.
Explain Property Division
A divorce lawyer can explain how property is treated upon the dissolution of the marriage. Each spouse may have separate property that they brought into the marriage. Other spouses may have accumulated assets separately per a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
A divorce lawyer can explain whether the state is a community property state or an equitable distribution state. This characteristic can make a dramatic difference in the distribution of the marital estate.
Cost Factors of a Divorce
Some of the factors that may affect the cost of divorce include:
One of the factors that almost always affects the cost of divorce is custody. If you and your ex have children, you’ll need to figure out a custody arrangement. This almost always gets complicated, which in turn can take a long time. Parents want the best for their children, and emotions can run high. But the longer that litigation goes on, the higher the bill.
Another factor that can increase the cost of divorce is your assets. If you have complicated assets, stocks, or many properties, it can make things more expensive. This is because it takes longer to figure out all of their values and how to split them fairly. If you and your ex own any companies together, this can also complicate matters.
Ability To Compromise
Your ability to compromise is the thing that affects the cost of your divorce the most. The more that you and your ex can agree on up front, the better off you’ll be financially. If you can figure out how you want to handle things in mediation without having to go to court, you’ll save yourself even more money. The quicker you can resolve issues, the less time you’ll be billed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer?
With the cost of divorce so expensive, it is natural to wonder if it’s even worth hiring a divorce lawyer and what exactly the benefits of having a lawyer are. Some of the most common benefits associated with hiring a proven divorce attorney include:
. Protection of and advocacy for your rights
. Having a greater understanding of family law in your state
. Overall, you have a faster divorce process.
. Mistake-free paperwork
. Negotiation with your spouse and their attorney
. Help to ensure that you are getting all the law entitles you to
. Can help to draft and review child custody agreements, parental agreements, and divorce settlements
. Advocate for fair spousal support, child support, alimony, etc.
Who Pays Attorney Fees in a Divorce?
For the most part, each spouse pays their own legal fees. However, there are potential exceptions to this. Your spouse may be required to pay for your attorneys under certain conditions, such as:
. They control the household money.
. You are a stay-at-home parent.
. They have significantly more money than you.
. It is stipulated in a prenuptial agreement.