How much does a divorce cost?

Published: 19th July 2006
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The legal costs and professional fees may be overpowering at first sight but the actual cost of divorce can range from context to context. It would make sense for you to ask your divorce attorney how much exactly your case will cost, but this is one question which is not quite as simple as it may seem.

The variables of a divorce case

This is because a number of variables come into the picture of your divorce case. Unlike personal injury cases where the lawyer may accept contingency fees, your divorce attorney is paid for the number of hours he/she actually puts into the case. This means that even if you wait 2 hours at the court just to get in 15 minutes with the judge, you'll be paying for your attorney's waiting time as well, (and maybe even his/her travel time too!) The total number of hours spent on your case and your lawyer's rate will determine the amount due.

Budgeting time with your lawyer is difficult to control

Even as you may budget your time with your divorce lawyer, you do not have power over your mate's lawyer. If your mate thinks that your divorce case is complex, there may be a number of issues that will need to be discussed in order for the case to be settled. Because of these variables, it is not viable to measure exactly how much time in court will be needed. By not reaching an agreement with your mate outside of court, you will be sure to deal with the costs of filing fees, legal documents, and trial appearances where your legal representatives must be present. Put together, all of these costs can get quite high.

Keep track of costs

Your divorce lawyer will be required to be present with you at Court Conferences. Expect at least 3 conferences: preliminary, compliance, and pre-trial. Because of the heavy traffic of cases in the Court calendar, there may very well be a significant amount of waiting time for your scheduled conference. This time spent idle will actually be part of the cost you will pay for, since you are paying your lawyer for his/her hourly rate. Even the travel time of your divorce lawyer may be billed as well.

In order to keep track of costs, you must make sure you are aware of the Retainer Agreement. The Retainer Agreement will show you exactly what your lawyer has accomplished and what amount of time he/she has spent on the case. Jumping to the first lawyer you talk to is not a smart move. Different lawyers vary in their rates for particular duties. Make sure to check out the ranges and choose your attorney accordingly.

Costs increase with experience

An experienced lawyer will naturally be more expensive than a fresh graduate. If you are dealing with many twists and turns regarding disagreements with your spouse, you may opt to go with an experienced lawyer instead. But there are agencies which make use of the work of associate lawyers or paralegals as 'assistants' to experienced attorneys, and this can reduce the ultimate cost of your legal fees in comparison to paying for the full-time work of a lead attorney. The hourly rates of these associates or paralegals will be less than their seniors and this can result in a reduction of overall legal costs.

Check if your lawyer requires a minimum fee.

Make sure that you discuss beforehand if your divorce lawyer will charge a minimum fee for your case. These minimum fees, which are hours of work paid in advance, will not be returned if fewer hours were spent on your case as a whole. On the other hand, if more hours were spent on your case, you shall expect to pay additional.
Ask specific questions in order to get a better idea of the particular cost of your case.

To learn more about divorce, please visit Divorce Guide.

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