For some, it comes as the relief of ending a bad relationship. For others, it’s the awful pain of heartbreak. Whatever the case, divorce is never a fun affair.
If you’re reading these lines, chances are your mind is already made up. If you’re still hesitating, it’s an option you’re at least seriously considering.
You’re going through very complex emotions as you separate from someone once close to your heart.
And it might be the last thing you want to think about, but you also have to take into account the practical aspects of it: How much do divorce lawyers cost exactly? Can I afford a divorce?
If you’ve only been married a short time and have no shared assets or children together, a lawyer might not be necessary. But in most cases, you will need an attorney to represent your interests.
Keep reading this article to learn how much divorce lawyers cost and what kind of expenses are involved in a divorce.
1. Divorce Costs Can Vary Quite a Lot
Every couple is unique and every divorce will present its own challenges.
This means that depending on your situation, the fees you incur might end up being quite different than someone else’s. The more complicated the situation, the more you’ll have to end up paying.
In a straightforward divorce where the couple decides to do all the paperwork themselves, the divorce could cost as little as a few hundred dollars.
For a more complicated case where the couple decides to go to trial, the costs could rise up to $100,000.
On average, divorces cost about $15,000 per person. That figure includes court costs, lawyer fees, and if required, experts such as child custody evaluators and real estate appraisers.
The figure might seem high, but that’s because the procedure will usually take several months to be completed. In the event of a trial, it could even take more than a year.
Deciding factors for divorce costs can include location, having many shared assets, and if the divorce is contested or not. Contested divorce means that the two parties don’t agree on how to proceed.
2. Divorce Lawyers Charge an Hourly Rate
On average, divorce attorneys will charge you around $200 per hour. Depending on where you’re located, that price will vary from around $150 to $250.
The complexity of your case can also influence the fees you’ll have to pay. If your divorce is messy and has lots of variables, such as intricate assets to divide, you could be charged as much as $650 per hour.
You can ask your lawyer to take care of every issue, which is termed full representation. It is different than partial representation, where your lawyer’s only tasked with handling some parts of the divorce.
If you don’t feel you need much legal support, you can also only consult with an attorney as needed. It is useful if you only require limited counseling, or some help handling a few documents.
In that case however, your lawyer won’t represent you in court or in negotiations.
Once you find an attorney that suits you, they will also generally ask you to pay a retainer fee.
A retainer fee is an upfront payment that is meant to enroll your lawyer’s services. It’ll serve toward paying the final bill, as a down payment on future work done.
These fees are generally set according to the lawyer’s hourly rate. They’ll also reflect the amount of work required, which is determined in the initial free consultation.
During this free consultation, you’ll discuss the issues pertaining to your divorce, for example: child support, custody, alimony, dividing property, and debts.
3. Divorce Can Be Contested or Uncontested
Uncontested divorces are the most easily resolved. In those cases, the procedure is quite straightforward as the former spouses don’t require divorce lawyers to reach an agreement.
As a result, the costs will remain fairly low. If there are no problems to solve, it could amount to less than a thousand dollars, depending on where you live.
Though in the more expensive states, such as California, the costs could rise up to $4,000 or $5,000.
In the case of a contested divorce, the couple are in disagreement and therefore the issues tend to be more complicated to resolve.
They can disagree on how to divide their assets, child custody, etc. In some instances, one of the spouses doesn’t want to divorce at all. This situation then requires legal intervention to continue the process.
The costs will increase to account for the larger amount of work required. They will further increase if the couple needs to appear before a judge to resolve matters.
The difference in the price paid therefore becomes quite significant.
Indeed, divorce cases that need to go to trial incur costs around $20,000 on average, with most of those fees being paid to the attorney.
4. Child Custody
In the best case scenario, the couple are able to agree on the schedule. But of course, that’s not always an option.
Divorces where custody details need to be hashed out will cost more, as the attorney will need more time to get the couple to concur.
Generally speaking, the parent who’s housing the children most of the time will have to pay less in child support.
In a case of contested divorce, if the couple can’t reach an agreement on the custody schedule, then an expert might have to intervene.
This expert is a trained psychologist who’ll interview both spouses and monitor the kids’ living conditions with each parent.
This intervention represents an added cost, which would generally range between $1,000 and $2,500. If you decide to resort to a private expert, then the costs might increase to several thousands of dollars.
Alimony also needs to be determined in a divorce.
Couples may convene on a set amount over a defined period of time. However, if they can’t find an agreement, the court may need to be involved.
In that case, the court will have to evaluate each spouse’s resources to decide on a suitable amount. This procedure entails more fees as it may include litigation and the need to verify finances.
With all the paperwork required, it may end up being a long-winded process that will increase the divorce’s costs.
6. How Much Do Divorce Lawyers Cost? An Overview
As we’ve seen, the average cost in the US is about $15,000. However, that amount can fluctuate significantly depending on the circumstances.
Lawyers charge by the hour and will require a retainer fee when first booking their services.
So, how much do divorce lawyers cost?
If you’re in agreement with your former partner and don’t have any complex assets to divide, you could come out only having to pay an amount in the low thousands.
However, if your divorce is contested, you might have to pay a lot more.