“While we can give you good advice about how to save money in your divorce, it is impossible for us to predict the final cost. The reason is that there are just too many unknown factors, including your spouse’s level of emotion, the advice he or she receives, and whether that advice is actually taken. You can imagine how difficult it would be to resolve a case for a reasonable amount when your spouse acts purely out of anger.”
Antoinette & Paul Lerandeau, Esq.
HOW MUCH DOES A DIVORCE COST?
While all legal work is expensive, just how expensive is usually a reflection of the amount of services you need. In order to make that determination, you must first place a value on the goals you hope to achieve and/or the things you believe are at stake. Once you have made that determination, the easier it is to select the type of legal representation you need. If you place a very high value on these factors, then you should seek high quality legal representation and be prepared to pay for it. However, if you place a lower value on the goals you hope to achieve and/or the things you believe are at stake, then selecting an attorney should not be that difficult because all you need is a competent attorney.
Regardless of your choice of attorney, it is still impossible to determine how much your Divorce will cost. The reason is that there are too many unknown factors in your case and your attorney’s inability to control all of them. However, there are some basic expenditures you can anticipate. In the beginning, you will probably have a consultation with one or two attorneys. Expect to pay a consultation fee which is usually equal to the attorney’s hourly rate. Avoid attorney’s who give a free consultation as their services are usually not in great demand for a reason. Once you do hire an attorney, he or she will ask for a retainer which is in essence a deposit. You can count on spending the entire retainer before your matter is resolved and more. The size of the retainer is a reflection of how difficult the attorney anticipates your case to be and the demand for his or her services.
Retainers usually run anywhere between $2,500 to $10,000 depending on the attorney you choose and the facts of your case. You will incur a lot of fees in the beginning due to the high level of animosity between you and your spouse. As emotions subside, so to do legal fees unless you have a complex case. Your attorney should send you a detailed statement each month reflecting the legal work performed and costs incurred which you must pay in full. Some attorneys require you to keep a minimum retainer on deposit each month. As the amount of attorney’s fees and costs grow, each party should have more incentive to settle. Increasing legal fees are not as much of an incentive to settle when the stakes in the case are very high, emotions fail to subside, or when there is a disparity in the parties’ ability to pay fees. An “average” divorce can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $35,000.
Additional factors involved in the cost of your Divorce are as follows:
1) Family Law attorneys charge by the hour. Attorneys in the Central Valley charge anywhere between $200 and $350 an hour. Rates are usually dictated by the attorney’s level of experience and demand for his or her services. While hiring an experienced attorney costs you more per hour, his or her experience will usually yield a better result.
2) Costs are expenses incurred in your case for materials, services, and fees usually paid to third parties. Examples include court filing fees, experts, and court runners.
3) Complexity is a large factor in determining the amount of fees charged. For example, the value of a self-employed party’s business requires the services of a forensic accountant to accurately determine. Other examples include detailed custody investigations by a psychologist, farm land appraisals, and use of an expert to trace out a party’s separate property when it becomes mixed up with a couple’s community property.
4) High levels of emotion are the greatest single source of increased legal fees. Animosity, distrust, greed, and many others emotions can make even the simplest of cases very expensive because one or both parties will be unwilling to agree thereby forcing contested trials.
5) Congestion in the court system can significantly lead to extra costs due to multiple continuances of hearings, delays, and lengthy court appearances. Many judges also have difficulty making tough decisions and allow cases to drag on in hopes they will settle.
6) The litigation tactics of many attorneys can significantly lead to extra costs. Some attorneys have difficulty differentiating between what is best for a client and doing what the client asks regardless of what it costs. Some attorneys think that forcing the other side to spend a lot of money will force them to settle for a lot less.
7) Family law cases require the drafting and filing of a tremendous amount of paperwork which has to be prepared at great expense. It is not unusual for a client file to be a couple of feet thick by the end of the case. Quality attorneys make sure that all paperwork submitted to the court are factually and legally correct.