Going through a divorce is stressful enough. But knowing what to expect from divorce lawyers fees will save you a lot of time and energy. Here is everything you need to know to make the process as simple as possible.
A divorce attorney is responsible for negotiating legal marital separations and the division of assets between spouses, and he or she should be specialized in family law. If there are children involved, the divorce lawyer is also responsible for negotiating the terms of child custody and child support, if a settlement cannot be reached between the spouses.
The divorce attorney will charge you depending on the specifics of your case, but there is national data that measures the cost of a divorce: on average, it can cost up to $15,500 in total, and the average hourly fee charged by divorce lawyers goes from $150 to $350 per hour.
As for the duration, you can expect your divorce process to last anything between four months and a year, but this will depend very much on the particulars of your case. Again, the average duration for a divorce in the U.S. is 10 months.
This is a very general estimate of the basic cost and duration of a divorce process, but you get the idea. There are online tools for calculating your divorce fee by answering basic questions.
In any case, your divorce lawyer will calculate a more exact estimate based on the details of your case and then give you a fee proposal.
So let’s look at some of the things that can influence the cost of your divorce:
What can Influence the Amount of my Divorce Lawyer Fee?
Legal cases are like people: each one is unique. Divorce procedures are even more complex because they involve two different people, and sometimes more if they had children together. This is why every case will have different problems, and they will define the final amount that your divorce lawyer will charge you.
These are some of them:
1. Issues That Go to Trial
What you can’t resolve through a settlement (meaning a direct agreement between the parts involved) needs to be resolved in court.
If you have for example issues of child support or custody, tax settlement, property or estate division, they all should be dealt with separately and taken to court on their own. Your lawyer will charge you for all the time and court expenses needed for each one, so try to predict how many of those disagreements with your spouse will be too difficult to resolve on your own before asking for a fee.
2. Type Of Representation
There are three possible scenarios for this.
They usually depend on what terms you are with your spouse, and if you can agree on some things without a lawyer in the room.
Your lawyer can conduct full representation (this means he or she would be present during every discussion of your case, represent you in court and manage property divisions), partial representation (where he or she only manages some aspects of the case but not all of them) or consultation (where he or she acts only as an advisor and drafts legal documents but does not represent you in court).
3. Nature Of Divorce
This issue also depends on the level of communication and agreement you have with each other. The divorce can be contested or uncontested:
- Contested divorce: when you need expert mediation to resolve one (or a number of) issues. In this scenario, you cannot reach a settlement with your spouse directly. A divorce lawyer retainer fee under these conditions could cost between $2,500 and $7,500, because it will require more time and work to reach a settlement.
- Uncontested divorce: in this case, you can agree on a settlement with your spouse and resolve your main issues without the need to go to court. The average retainer fee for this kind of divorce is between $2,000 and $4,000.
4. Duration Of Divorce:
We already know that an average divorce will take up to 10 months to a year to be completed.
But the longer it goes on, the more likely you are to incur in additional costs, like expert fees, court expenses or additional working hours from your divorce lawyer. This is why it’s very important that you know what kind of agreement you have with your attorney.
For this reason, now we are going to look into how divorce lawyers usually charge and what you should expect from a contract:
How do Divorce Lawyers Charge?
If you need to hire a divorce lawyer, chances are you already decided to spend a considerable amount of money. Make sure you are in control of your own process from the beginning!
Being aware of what happens with your payments as your divorce unfolds is key for avoiding unexpected expenses and reducing stress.
Here are some of the basic concepts to keep in mind:
1. Initial Consultation
The first step before choosing a divorce lawyer is going to his or her office and presenting your case.
They will make a detailed assessment and give you an estimate of the type of representation you need, the time it will take to complete the divorce, the possible challenges along the way and the potential fee. This is a single session consultation that can last approximately an hour, and the average cost is $$.
It is advisable to have more than one session with different divorce lawyers before making a final decision.
2. Final Agreement
When you have an agreement, the most important thing you need to look for is the kind of rate they will be charging.
If it is a fixed rate, then it means that you will make a one time payment to your lawyer. If they offer to charge you on an hourly rate, it means that expenses will increase or decrease depending on the amount of work your lawyer has to do. This is a common practice for complicated divorce cases, where setting a time frame is not clear and there are many potential additional costs.
3. Retainer Fee
This is the initial amount you pay your divorce lawyer for his or her services.
The retainer depends on the kind of rate your lawyer offers you and it generally applies for agreements based on hourly rates. This is how it works: when you pay the retainer, divorce expenses will be taken from that amount until the retainer is depleted. If there are still some costs to cover, then you would need to coordinate a second payment with your lawyer.
4. Additional Expenses
Anything that cannot be fully anticipated at the initial agreement phase could become an additional expense.
For example, you may need to find experts to testify in court, your lawyer may need to add in work hours to draft additional documents or deal with new information that affects the case. This will also depend on the kind of work your divorce lawyer is doing, and it is very important that you get a clear outline of his tasks as the case goes on, so you know exactly what you are being billed for.
Now that we know divorce expenses can be tricky, let’s look at some ways to reduce costs as much as possible:
How to Reduce the Cost of Divorce Lawyers Fees
1. Get a Written Fee Agreement
This may seem obvious, but a written contract will make sure the boundaries an duties are clear for your attorney and you. Ask your divorce lawyer for a detailed monthly record of his/her completed tasks, so you can keep track of your expenses and maintain transparency all the time.
2. Negotiate With Your Spouse
We know that not everyone going through a divorce is on speaking terms, but at the end of the day, the costs of the procedure will affect both of you.
See if there are issues that you can resolve before coming to an attorney or taking them as a case to court. This will save you both a lot of time and money, and even though it may be a difficult conversation, in the end it will be worth it.
3. Invest in Your Divorce
It’s something that has legal implications for the rest of your life, so you should do it properly. Don’t choose a lawyer just because they are cheap.
A divorce procedure that isn’t handled properly can hurt you in the long term more than it can help you, and you may be paying for the consequences longer than you would expect to. Make sure you find a good lawyer that will have your best interests in mind at all times and is willing to put in the work for you. It may cost a bit more than you would like to spend, but it will also be worth it in the long run.
4. Be Honest
Your divorce lawyer needs access to all the information about your case, even those parts that you don’t like so much.
You need to find an attorney you can trust, and someone who will not judge you. If they don’t have access to the full information before starting to work with the case, it may get complicated in the future and end up costing you more. Honesty is always the best policy!
Finding The Right Divorce Lawyer Is Essential
Our final advice is to take your time at each stage and always build trust with your divorce lawyer. Going through a divorce is never easy, but with these tips you should be ready to take control of your process and come out of it exactly as you want to.