How Much Is a Divorce Lawyer? 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 a divorce lawyer will cost and if there are ways to save money on legal fees.
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 Much Is a Divorce Lawyer?
When you look into hiring a divorce lawyer, the first price tag you’ll probably encounter is the lawyer’s hourly rate.
Why Hire a Divorce Lawyer
A divorce lawyer’s fees may sound expensive, but the professional plays a significant role in helping a client win a case. A lawyer is a convenient resort for filing for divorce and other associated legal proceedings. Here is a breakdown of the benefits of hiring a divorce lawyer.
The Lawyer Understands All Relevant Procedures
An experienced divorce lawyer knows the issues relevant to a client’s case and works to focus the court hearing on them by highlighting all the important points in front of the court. Family laws, especially the ones related to divorce proceedings, may be complicated, and not everyone can understand them. That is why a divorce lawyer can help clients divert the court’s attention to significant issues that can benefit them.
The Lawyers Give Relevant Legal Advice
An experienced divorce lawyer offers clients legal advice on making divorce claims after they decide to separate from their partner. The professional lawyer also guides clients in gathering relevant evidence to present in court and win the divorce case and alimony against the other partner.
The Lawyer Provides Experienced Assistance
A divorce lawyer can let clients know what will happen in a particular legal proceeding. Such lawyers have relevant expertise from dealing with similar divorce cases earlier that will help the client win the case and become eligible for benefits such as child custody, spousal support, etc.
A professional divorce lawyer also knows what to expect and can advise clients about the appeals, legal documents, other evidence, and applications they can present to the court to win the divorce case.
The Lawyer Ensures a Faster Procedure
A divorce lawyer has all the expertise to help clients file an appeal if they disagree with any notice of determination and compensation provided by a particular state’s authorities during the dissolution trial. The family lawyer can also anticipate different scenarios related to the client’s legal situation and announce the dissolution of the marriage.
The Lawyer Provides Legal Protection
Every divorce lawyer knows and understands the rules of evidence related to a couple’s divorce. The knowledge helps the professionals work to keep the opposite party from submitting evidence into the record that may be irrelevant or inadmissible according to family laws. The professional lawyer will also ensure that the client provides relevant legal arguments and objections in court to win the divorce case against the other spouse.
How Divorce Lawyers Charge Their Fees
Divorce attorneys have a few ways they can structure fees, you can expect one of the following scenarios:
Most lawyers charge by the hour. This means that they bill you for the time that they spend working on your case, whether it’s conducting research, actively negotiating, or going to court. An honest lawyer will track their time in six-minute increments, billing you on a pro-rated basis for the time they spend on your case, rounded up to the nearest tenth of an hour.
Except in rare, extremely easy cases, hourly rates for lawyers almost always cost more than paying a flat fee. However, this is partly because hourly-rate lawyers tend to do a more thorough job than a flat-rate council. You’ll pay more, but you’ll get more in return. When you hire an hourly-rate lawyer, your costs will vary dramatically based on the complexity of your divorce.
A simple, amicable divorce might require only a little bit of work as your lawyer makes sure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities. If you have significant assets, children, or other complicating factors, your lawyer will have to put in more hours.
Most family law lawyers charge their clients an upfront fee called a retainer. This fee essentially acts like a downpayment for legal services. It gives your lawyer confidence that they will be paid for the services that they provide. Retainer fees range from $3k to $5k, depending on the complexity of your case and the divorce lawyer you choose to hire.
In some cases, attorneys subtract the costs of the time that they spend on your case from the retainer and charge additional fees after that fund has been depleted. In other cases, attorneys require an upfront fee in addition to their hourly rate.
This is when a lawyer charges you a fixed rate to handle a matter from start to finish. For example, a lawyer might charge you $1,000 to handle everything from the initial filing to the final decree at that flat rate. The problem with the flat rate is, as we noted above, the unpredictability of legal matters. A lawyer can’t predict in advance how much time any given case will require.
Fee-for-service lawyers try to account for this by charging fees that balance the unexpectedly light cases against the unexpectedly difficult ones.
Divorce attorneys might use alternative arrangements, also known as value-based billing. Alternative arrangements involve negotiations between clients and lawyers for costs and may result in monthly payments or an hourly charge with a maximum total cost limiting the client’s expenses.
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 costs associated with divorce. However, other costs like court fees, mediation costs, the cost of evaluators, etc. will quickly add up. Learn more about each below.
Filing fees for divorce vary widely. Depending on the state where you live, fees can range from $70 to more than $350. You can learn what your exact fee is by checking the state website or contacting the clerk’s office. The clerk’s office can also provide 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, attorney-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 mediation is about $200 per hour. Attorneys are not required for the mediation process. However, it is typically in your best interest to at least consult your attorney before the mediation sessions begin and then 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.
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.
Evaluations are conducted by trained mental health professionals (typically a psychologist) who interview the parents, spend time with the children, and conduct observations of the family interactions. Court-appointed evaluators generally cost $1,000–$2,500. However, private child custody evaluators can cost more than five times that amount.
How To Choose the Right Divorce Lawyer
It is recommended for those going through a contested divorce or even an uncontested divorce to hire an experienced family law attorney. While the importance of doing so shouldn’t be understated, it is equally important to choose a divorce lawyer that is the best fit for your specific needs.
Here are some steps to follow when choosing the right divorce lawyer.
Conduct Your Research
Pay attention to online reviews (search engines, attorney review sites, social media, etc.), check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints, and ask others how their experience was with your potential divorce lawyer.
Price is Not Everything
Though divorce costs can be substantial, you should make your final decision on an attorney based on many factors, not just price.
Keep Your Options Open
It is recommended that you interview at least two to three potential family law lawyers before making your final choice.
Ask the Right Questions
Be sure to ask your attorney about their fee structure, courtroom experience, if they have worked on similar divorce cases in the past, and the outcomes of those cases.
The cost of a divorce may vary from one place to another depending on the situation or the client’s requirements. Moreover, the family laws related to divorce may be complicated. It is advised to approach a divorce lawyer for court trials.
Benefis Of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
With the cost of divorce so expensive, it is natural to wonder if it is 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 lawyer include:
. 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.
. 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
Do You Need a Lawyer to Get Divorced?
You’ll want to have someone on your side to look out for your interests unless you’re divorcing after a very short marriage that involves no assets, children, or debts. Otherwise, you’ll probably need a divorce lawyer, even if you are a lawyer, because divorces can be a very emotional and contentious ordeal. You may not always be thinking clearly throughout the process, and the stakes can be high.
You’ll also want someone to investigate whether your spouse is concealing any assets, such as retirement accounts.
Who Pays for A Divorce?
Each spouse is typically expected to pay their own divorce costs, but there might be an exception if one spouse is unemployed or has very little income while the other earns a great deal. Your lawyer may be able to petition the court for an order obligating the wealthier spouse to pay all the costs. However, you’ll have to prove that you don’t have money or income and that your spouse can afford to take on your legal fees.