The Cost of Divorce – Attorney’s Fees

October 2013

The Cost of Divorce – Attorney´s Fees

As stated last month cost is always an important to the client and usually one of the first questions asked. Last month I explained the direct cost associated with divorce and left open for discussion the actual attorney´s fees.

In most divorce or child custody cases, the “legal fees” or “attorney´s fees” comprise the lion share of the cost client will incur. There are exceptions, parties can and do spend a lot of money on experts, investigators, and the like but if your divorce or custody action is one that requires that level of external (non-legal) work, you should be engaged in the collaborative settlement process. Collaborative settlement is the process where the parties agree up front to settle this out of court by hiring joint experts.

Attorney´s fees are no different than the direct cost of a divorce or custody fight in that it is difficult if not impossible to predict. As previously stated, a lawyer can assess up front how long it will take to draft a petition, request for temporary orders (if necessary) and to draft basic written discovery request. An attorney may even be able to assess fairly early how much time will be required to draft the closing documents such as:
the Austin Form
Withholding Orders
Medical Support Orders
a Deed of Trust to Secure Assumption on real property
Special Warranty Deed for the property
Power of Attorney for transferring vehicles, and
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) for each Retirement plan.
What is completely unknown is what information will appear in response to the basic discovery request, if there will be any forensic accounting work, how long it will take to draft advance written discovery requests, to answer the opposing party’s discovery request, or to prepare for and take depositions.

Most importantly, each client has his or her own individual need for attention. Some clients want to be updated daily and will not read documents mailed to them, rather they want to talk to a lawyer or paralegal everyday. Those phone calls take time and that time costs. Of course, you may not be the high maintenance client, but what about your spouse, if he/she is high maintenance and calls his/her lawyer daily, that lawyer calls your lawyer and there are e-mails, letters, etc. that deal with the other spouse´s need for consolation, all this takes time and lawyers charge for their time.

Another factor is the Attorney hourly billing rate. While a younger lawyer may bill at a lower rate, he/she may take longer to complete the same tasks. That is one reason why more experienced lawyers can command a higher hourly rate.

At the end of the day, what your divorce will cost is highly speculative and dependent upon you, your spouse and what assets or issues exist. No kids, no property and no debt should be simple and inexpensive. In other words an UNCONTESTED divorce. However, if one spouse wants to fight because of hurt feelings or more likely, the desire to “win” the last fight, cost will be disproportionate to the outcome. On the other end of the spectrum, two people who have spent a lifetime amassing a community estate and raising children that want to work towards a common goal of divorce without giving it all to the attorneys, can (and often do) resolve most of the issue amicably and end up paying a lot less for a divorce (which is an uncontested divorce.

In other words, what a divorce cost, is largely up to you.

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