How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?

Your choice in how you and your spouse decide to resolve any disputes will dictate the cost involved in divorcing. According to Nolo’s survey, costs associated with an uncontested divorce tend to be minimal and could only involve court filing fees and possibly mediation services.

Contentious issues such as child custody, property division and spousal support require extensive negotiations, paperwork and legal research that will incur substantial attorney’s fees.

Retainer Fees

Retainer fees are the upfront costs associated with hiring an attorney to handle your divorce case. They track every hour spent working on it, and any expenses they incur related to it (like parking or postage costs) will be deducted from the retainer fund.

Retainer fees can differ depending on the law firm and may include flat fee arrangements for specific legal services; these agreements tend to be rarer in divorce cases.

Survey respondents who hired lawyers for full-scope representation paid on average around $11,300. But when complex issues such as child custody or finances come into play, this number can skyrocket – as couples spend time disagreeing over property division or alimony payments and hiring experts such as forensic accountants or custody evaluators, their costs increase substantially.

Fees for Experts

Divorcing couples who can reach agreement or negotiate outside court settlements usually experience divorce costs that fall below $10,000, but for couples that disagree and go to trial on contentious issues the costs could exceed $20,000.

At divorce mediation sessions, attorneys may recommend experts such as financial planners, real estate appraisers and child custody evaluators in order to help both parties come to an agreement. Fees associated with these experts vary widely depending on both their expertise and subject matter.

There are also additional court costs that vary by state and county such as photocopies, notary fees, mailing, process server fees and judge’s funds that you will incur in addition to attorney’s fees. It is best to contact your county clerk’s office in order to ascertain these amounts; speaking with an experienced divorce attorney during consultation can further explain these fees in greater depth.

Fees for Document Preparation

Divorce can be costly. Lawyer’s fees typically make up the bulk of this expense, while filing fees and independent evaluators also add up quickly. Our survey revealed that readers who hired full-scope attorneys incurred average attorney fees totaling an average of around $11,300 in total.

An hourly rate for a divorce lawyer depends on their experience, practice area and type of case they represent; typically family law attorneys tend to charge more than criminal or civil litigation lawyers.

New York attorneys tend to charge more than attorneys in other states due to the higher cost of living in New York City. If you and your spouse can agree on most aspects of the divorce, hiring a document preparer for a flat fee could help make matters simpler as they’ll prepare and file all documents with the court for filing, while providing electronic copies as evidence in your court file.

Fees for Trial

One of the primary factors causing divorces to cost more than anticipated is when contentious issues require court resolution, driving up legal expenses significantly as lawyers spend time filing motions, conducting discovery and possibly hiring experts or investigators for evaluation purposes.

Custody battles can ratchet up fees significantly. When parents cannot agree on custody after trying mediation, a judge may order a child custody evaluation which can range from $1,000-$2,500 through the county; or significantly more if both parties hire separate evaluators.

Filing fees for divorce typically range between $100 and $150; low-income petitioners may qualify for fee waivers from courts. Furthermore, an uncontested divorce can help parties save costs; mediation or online services provide this service.

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