It is difficult to get attorneys to give a straight forward estimate on the cost of a divorce. Many attorneys are afraid that a truthful answer will chase away a potential client. Other attorneys try to attract clients by low-balling the estimate. We try to be honest and give you the real facts.
How much your legal fees for a divorce will amount to is very difficult to estimate. But it is an important question to discuss with your attorney at your initial consultation and frequently throughout the course of your case.
It is safe to assume that a relatively simple, uncontested divorce will cost at least $5,000. Depending on the complexity of your case, and how much you and your spouse can agree to, the price will go up from there. Some clients with very complex cases can easily incur fees that range between $10,000 to $20,000. That amount may sound a little crazy but you are paying for skilled professional services. There is a very real possibility that, in most cases, the assistance of a skilled legal team will save you more money in the resolution of your case than what your legal services will cost.
Here are some things to keep in mind when setting your expectations for legal fees:
- You will be required to pay an Advance Fee Deposit when you retain your attorney. Expect that fee to be $3,500 or more, based on the complexity of the case.
- Be aware that the Advance Fee Deposit is just to get your legal services started. You will be paying more as your case progresses.
- You will be charged for every contact with your legal team so plan wisely on how to use that time. Don’t waste your attorney’s time, or that of their staff, or you will pay for it. Time is money.
- Paralegal time is billed at a rate less than your attorney but it is still billed. Use paralegal time to your advantage but remember the clock is still running.
- If your spouse is unpredictable and difficult to reason with, your case will very likely be more expensive. It is an unfortunate reality that you have to plan for.
- There are additional fees charged by other professionals who may be needed to resolve your case. Those services might include accountants, psychologists, Guardian Ad Litem (Court appointed advocate for the welfare of the children), business evaluators, and real estate appraisers. If your case includes issues that may require these services you must anticipate the extra fees that will be in addition to your attorney fees.
- There are costs and expenses involved in every legal case. Costs and fees are in addition to an attorney’s hourly rates. Costs and expenses will, again, vary with the complexity of the case. These costs include such things as office administration fees like copy charges, postage, fax fees, delivery fees, and travel expenses; and expenses associated with Court filing such as filing fees and service of process fees.
- All fees and costs will mount exponentially if your attorney is preparing for a settlement conference or particularly in preparation for trial. It is to your benefit to choose your battles and make sound business decisions about what to fight out and what not to waste time on.
- Remember, your legal team is on your side. A level of trust and mutual respect is needed so that you can proceed on your case without spending a lot of time and money arguing with your attorney. Take time to listen to the legal advice you are being given and the reasoning behind it.
- Become knowledgeable about the process you are going through. (Link to Divorce Guide)
- Do your best to make unemotional, well-reasoned decisions on both the strategy of your case and the details of your property and debt division and, when necessary, your parenting plan. What appear to be small amounts up front can accumulate to substantial amounts over the course of years. Stay focused on your goals, and always keep the big picture in mind.
- Review your monthly statement as tool for evaluating the progress and cost of your case.
Use this list a starting place for in your discussion with your attorney on what to expect the cost of your particular case to be.