Divorce Attorney Expenses

Aug 8, 2012 by

The divorce laws that govern the processes and rights concerning property, custody, support and alimony are entirely dependant on the state where you live. This means that although the termination of a marriage is the common factor in every divorce, most of the laws governing the details of the process are state specific and can vary a bit.

Although there used to be “fault divorces” used in some jurisdictions, all states have now placed “no-fault” divorce laws on their books and they no longer require either party to prove “fault” in court in order to get a divorce. The no-fault laws have proven effective in dealing with divorces that are uncontested although some states may require spouses to have been separated for a specific length of time or agree to mutually equitable property and custody divisions, but for the most part, no-fault divorces are usually the easiest type of divorce to complete.

Property division is another area of divorce law that can take two different modes depending on the state you live in. State laws concerning property division come in two flavors, community property laws and equitable property laws. In the states using community property laws, property is divided equally with the exception of assets acquired prior to the marriage. The community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. The rest of the country employs equitable property laws where assets are divided based on what the divorce court considers fair and the outcomes can be affected by many factors including the length of a marriage and the future earning potential of each spouse.

There are other financial choices that will be up to you regardless of the state you live in however. If you need to hire an attorney due to a contested divorce or one where large amounts of assets are to be divided, it can get costly. Most divorce attorneys will charge hourly fees ranging from $75-$400. Some will charge flat fees varying from $200 for simply filing a petition for divorce all the way up to $10,000 and far beyond for handling all aspects of a divorce. As evidenced by the celebrity divorces in the tabloids, there is really no limit as to what complicated, emotional divorces can cost.

You’ll also have to be prepared to pay the attorney a retainer fee up-front that is usually a percentage of a flat fee or the equivalent of several hours work. Expect retainer fees to range from about $1000 for an uncontested divorce with minimal work up to $5,000 for a divorce with complex child custody or property division issues. Remember that if a divorce requires the services of private investigators or other experts, those fees will not be included in the attorney’s charges and must be paid separately. Fees for investigators and other experts can vary from $500-$5,000 depending on circumstances. Don’t forget that you will also have to pay various court filing fees ranging from $75 to $500 and that your attorney will also charge extra for any time spent answering your questions on the phone or by email. Your attorney will also charge for any time his staff spends making photocopies, doing research or any other work required in your divorce. Make sure you read all documents before you sign anything and make a copy of everything you do sign. Time often equals money when it comes to using an attorney in a contested divorce


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