It is difficult to assign a cost for a divorce because there are myriad factors that differ between cases. One couple might agree on every major issue, and can thus dissolve their marriage without a lengthy and expensive court battle. Another couple may disagree on everything. For them, litigation may be the only option. Attorneys’ rates, the city in which you live, and the involvement of children can each play a role in determining the price you’ll ultimately pay to part ways with your spouse.
Below, we’ll explain the different ways in which divorce lawyers charge for their legal services. We’ll also take a closer look at items that can cause the cost of your divorce to rise. Throughout the following discussion, keep in mind that it is possible to get a divorce without paying thousands of dollars. Much depends on whether you and your spouse are willing to compromise in order to avoid litigation.
How Fees Are Charged For Divorce Cases
Lawyers generally charge for their services in four different ways. Most prefer to charge by the hour, especially for cases that are unpredictable. An hourly rate is established before the individual is hired, and he or she is paid for each hour spent on the case until its conclusion. A higher rate is not necessarily bad. Experienced attorneys who charge a higher rate may be able to resolve cases more quickly, thereby lowering the overall cost.
Many lawyers charge a flat fee. This is common in uncontested divorce cases since there is a low likelihood that litigation will be necessary. Because the outcome of such cases is predictable, attorneys can charge flat fees without the risk of becoming embroiled in costly court battles for their clients.
Lawyers who charge an hourly rate often require their clients to present a retainer fee for their services. This is akin to a deposit. It is a sum of money collected by the lawyer and placed into a trust account. As the client’s case proceeds and the attorney spends more hours on it, he or she will move a portion of the retainer from the trust into a personal account. The retainer is usually nonrefundable. This allows the lawyer to take on cases – turning away other clients in the process – without worrying that he or she might only work a few hours on them.
Many attorneys take on clients based on a contingency fee. This is an arrangement in which the lawyer collects no fee in advance, but is instead paid a percentage of the money that is recovered when the case concludes. Divorce cases cannot be taken based on this type of arrangement.
Issues That Can Increase The Cost Of A Divorce
As implied earlier, cases in which divorcing couples agree on all issues involving property division, child support, and spousal support, will be less expensive than otherwise. These are uncontested divorces. Settlement agreements between the spouses can usually be created quickly.
If one spouse disagrees with the other on important matters, more time is usually needed to resolve their differences. This may involve mediation. In cases where the spouses are combative toward one another, litigation may be necessary. This can substantially increase the cost of the divorce.
Whenever children are involved, the costs tend to be higher. Issues may arise regarding child support, custody and visitation rights, and whether the custodial parent should be able to relocate. These and other issues may require more time to resolve, thereby increasing the overall cost.
The cost of a divorce can also rise if one or both spouses’ attorneys takes an unnecessarily combative stance. This is seldom in the best interests of the client. Outside a heated court battle, the approach is inappropriate and will only result in a larger legal bill.
Determine Your Budget Before Hiring An Attorney
Divorce lawyers understand that many of their clients want to minimize their legal expenses. As a result, they expect to be asked probing questions about their fees. Couples seeking a divorce should have a candid discussion with the attorneys they hire about their billing practices. They should ask how much they will be charged and how fees are calculated.
It’s also worth asking how certain charges can be reduced. For example, it may be possible to have the lawyer’s support staff handle various tasks at a lower hourly rate.
Getting a divorce is an emotional and stressful experience for everyone involved. It can also be expensive depending on the attorney’s approach and your commitment to keeping costs under control. If you and your spouse are willing to compromise on major issues, it is possible to keep the cost of your divorce to a reasonable level.
The author writes on many topics including relationships and legal issues. She is currently working and contributing to the www.ephraimlaw.com/blog/. Be sure check review the other resources on this site as well.