How much does it cost to get a divorce? 27 Answers as of June 13, 2011

What is the usual cost to get a divorce for someone who has been married for 16 years? How do I tell if I should hire a particular lawyer?

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Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
Cost is always an important question for a client looking to get a divorce. Unfortunately, there is no way to give you a solid answer. The cost will depend on so many factors that are as yet unknown that any lawyer that gives you a cost is either just guessing or offering a "fixed cost" also known as a Flat Fee. The problem with Flat Fees is that the lawyer has to make a choice, set the fee high enough that he or she is covered if the case goes awry, or figure out how to make the case stay within budget. What I can tell you is the basics. There is a filing fee (usually $270-300). The filing fee is paid to the court. Other cost you may expect, again this depends on the case include: Issuance of Citation and Issuance of Notice if required, the Court cost for these items is generally about $10 each; service of process varies depending on location plan $75-100 if it is required; as your case proceeds, you may find a need for a private investigator and that cost is very difficult to calculate and depends on what is needed (surveillance, skip tracing, asset searches, etc.); the Court may require social studies, DNA testing, Home studies, and in extreme cases, appointment of an attorney ad litem for the children - again these cost vary and are not in every case, but this is cost that could pop up depending on the circumstances of the parties. All of the cost quoted above are just court cost, no attorney's fees, no copy charges, no consideration for closing documents, etc. Closing documents would be things like the Austin Form, Withholding Orders, Medical Support Orders, Deeds of Trust to Secure Assumption on real property, or Special Warranty Deeds for the house, and Power of Attorney for transferring vehicles, not to mention a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) for each 401K, SEP Plan or Defined Retirement plan (QDROs cost $400 each at my firm, we send them out to a firm in Houston with a lot of experience in preparing them - $400 each is our cost). Finally, the "cost" quoted above does not include any attorney's fees for doing the work, this is just a list of things that you will or may have to pay to the Court or third parties. Attorney's fees will vary according to the Attorney/Firm billing rate and the amount of time required to complete you case. In a simple case with kids, plan at least 3 hours for drafting pleadings and a proposed decree. Assuming your spouse simply signs the proposed decree with no questions or concerns, there is another hour of drafting basic closing documents (this number can easily triple if there are assets to deal with) and an hour to prepare the final Orders and present the prove-up to the Judge. Minimum attorney time is 5 hours, up to 10 hours and this is for a simple case. Add in any hurt feelings, issues that you or your spouse want to fight over, another attorney, temporary orders, or custody issues and the limit is how long each of you can hold out for the fight. ALL IS NOT AS BAD AS THIS ANSWER MAY MAKE IT SEEM. Please note, I am trying to answer the question you asked. Look at the questions I have already answered regarding Contested vs. Uncontested divorce. If you have the makings for an uncontested divorce, the cost is substantially cut - it is the "simple divorce" I am talking about above and many attorneys will handle those on a fixed/flat cost. In fact, my firm even does them at a discounted rate, since the work is mostly "busy work and drafting" that can be accomplished at my leisure or when I am stuck at the courthouse "waiting" for a case to be called. It provides me something to do so my time is not altogether spent twiddling my thumbs. After you have looked at the other information, or if you want to just skip that step, call me. My office is in Plano and we handle divorce and custody cases in Collin County and Dallas County. As for how to hire a lawyer or who to hire, that is extremely personal. You want a lawyer you feel comfortable with since you have to tell this person your secrets if things get bad. Simple divorces require less information but if you and your spouse want to fight dirty, and many do, you have to be willing to come clean and confess to your lawyer what happened so that there are no surprises in court.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 6/13/2011
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler | Robert L Fiedler
You ask the impossible question. It is not possible to state the cost of hiring an attorney to get a divorce. First of all, most attorneys bill based on time in file and thus, cost is directly related to quantity (and one would hope quality) of time. Second, a simple divorce is less expensive than a complex or conflicted divorce situation. For example, are the parties in agreement on things or will everything be a fight. From my own experience, I have handled cases where the fees were less than a thousand and other cases where the fees have exceeded ten thousand. In terms of how you determine who to hire, every lawyer will say that they can handle your case. What you want, though, is someone who has experience in family law, experience in the court you would be going to and I think very importantly, someone you feel comfortable with. You don't want someone inaccessible or whose personality may clash with yours. Interview a handful of attorneys before making a decision. Feel free to start with me!
Answer Applies to: Connecticut
Replied: 6/10/2011
Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
Contested divorces range from a $2,500 initial retainer to $10,000 or more depending on the clients' estate size and the lawyer in question. Speak to several. Go with the one you like, but also speak to other references. Hourly rates vary as well which effects the final tally. Stay well.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 6/9/2011
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
The cost of getting a divorce will depend upon too many variables to give you a firm answer. That's because it will largely depend upon how reasonable both parties are about many, many topics, from equitable distribution to child custody to a host of other related topics. It also depends upon how much a particular attorney charges which also depends upon what state and area you live in and how much each of you can afford to pay. By that I mean, you simply may not want to spend all your joint savings on attorneys when you can settle everything yourselves. Of course, this is easier to say than to do - that's why you're usually getting a divorce in the first place. How to determine the best attorney for you is not easy, but you can use various measures to make a decision. I like Avvo because you can ask for a matrimonial attorney in your area and then review his/her profile on the site itself and see what other clients say about the attorney from their experiences. The rating is also important and it's a better way to rate attorneys than anything I've seen lately elsewhere. I especially like it because I have the highest rating available and who wouldn't like that, but I also think it's accurate from what I can see of other attorneys who I know on Avvo from seeing them in the local courts. Last, always as for a free consultation and evaluate the attorney for yourself.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/9/2011
Beresford Booth PLLC
Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
The cost of a divorce is typically dictated by the issues involved as well as the "attitudes" of the parties. You should hire a lawyer with whom you are comfortable with.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 6/9/2011
    Gresham Family & Bankruptcy Law
    Gresham Family & Bankruptcy Law | Lillian Suelzle Watson
    Attorneys fees are determined by the issues in your marriage. Are there pensions, children, property? If there is no property to divide, it will cost much less than if you have lots of property to divide. Attorneys range fro $2.500 to $6,000 and up. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Palomino Law Firm, P.C.
    Palomino Law Firm, P.C. | Debra Palomino
    In Arizona, the filing fee is $321 and you will incur a fee for serving the divorce papers unless your spouse is willing to accept service. In the event you retain an attorney, you and the attorney will meet and discuss the issues of your case and determine what amount of a retainer will be necessary to start the process. You should retain a family law attorney who is experienced in the process. The retainer amount can be dependent upon what issues are in dispute, usually not the length of years of your marriage.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Seattle Divorce Services
    Seattle Divorce Services | Michael V. Fancher
    The costs vary widely according to how much help you need and the work style of the attorney you hire. Just having an attorney prepare the papers for an agreed divorce might only cost a few thousand or less. A hotly contested case can cost many tens of thousands. A cooperative, mediated, or Collaborative divorce might run in between, but again much depends on the amount of help you need. Also, some attorneys see their job as doing the work as efficiently as possible while some attorneys see their job as doing the work as well as possible, and that style difference can make a big difference in cost.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    There's no easy way of predicting the cost of a divorce. Talk to several attorneys free of charge and find one you like. Consider using the collaborative law method to resolve things. Generally, it's cheaper.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Steven D. Keist, Attorney at Law
    Steven D. Keist, Attorney at Law | Steven D. Keist
    The price varies depending on contested issues and whether or not there are children and if custody is contested.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A.
    Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A. | Joanna Mitchell
    Every divorce is different as far as cost. Typically, an initial Retainer is paid which can vary depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. The total cost depends on how many disputed issues there are and how hotly contested those issues are, as well as the hourly rate that the attorney you retain charges. As for how to choose an attorney, you should consult with several attorneys and retain the one that you feel has sufficient experience and expertise, and that you feel most comfortable with. My office offers free initial telephone consultations if you would like to discuss this matter in more detail, as well as explore the potential rights and options available. If you would like to coordinate a free initial telephone consultation, please contact my office.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    Total cost can't be accurately estimated without knowing all the facts and circumstances and assessment of what possible issues there are and whether those issues can be resolved by mutual agreement or will require a trial for a judge to decide. The range of possible attorney fees without more information can only be speculation, but somewhere between $2,000 and $10,000 is possible.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Law Office of James Lentz
    Law Office of James Lentz | James Lentz
    Cost varies dramatically depending upon the litigiousness of the parties. A divorce can cost $1000 or can cost $100,000.00. It just depends. Look for a lawyer whose practice focuses on domestic relations law. A specialist in DR law (if your state identifies those persons) would be preferred.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C.
    Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C. | Fredric Harlan Aaron
    Unfortunately, there is no set fee for a divorce. The only way to minimize the cost is for you and your spouse to work out all the details beforehand, and agree that the divorce will be filed as uncontested. In this way, you could approach an attorney and retain him/her to represent you jointly, agreeing with the attorney that if the divorce becomes contested, the attorney will remove him/herself from your cause. In this way, you could at least work out a fixed fee arrangement with the attorney for the divorce, minimizing the costs and expenses associated therewith. However, there is no guaranty that your spouse will go along with any of this, or that he/she will decide part way through the process to contest the proceedings. As for choosing an attorney to represent you, you should meet a number of attorneys before making your decision. You need to find an attorney who is willing to work with you to achieve your goals. Often, it comes down to personalities, and you need to find an attorney in whom you can rely and confide.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    The answer to your question may depend upon whether it is an uncontested or contested divorce. We handle many uncontested divorces here for as low as $500 plus court costs. Of course, contested divorces are more. You should consult with family or friends and retain a divorce attorney in your community. I have also blogged about how to find a good divorce attorney. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    It would depend on the amount of controversy rather than the length of time. Most attorneys charge an upfront amount called a retainer and bill against it. If there is money left at the end of such a retainer then it would be refunded; if the retainer were exceeded then it would have to be replenished. You should set up consultations with a few attorneys in your area to understand their terms and probably more importantly how comfortable you feel dealing with them.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
    The cost of your divorce depends on the complexity of the issues, the amount of fight or cooperation you might get from your spouse and your spouse's attorney, and the quality of attorney you choose. You should listen to recommendations of other attorneys, friends and/or relatives to learn about what a particular lawyer has done for or against them, and you should interview a number attorneys on the telephone and at their offices to determine your rapport with the attorneys and evaluate their professionalism, experience, tactics and recommendations, until you find an attorney you feel you could work with and have confidence in.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Michael Apicella
    Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
    There are several sources of costs when getting divorced. One is court fees. In Northern California, the current fee to file a divorce petition is $395. That gets paid directly to the court, unless you qualify for a "fee waiver" because you are impoverished. The other, and typically large cost of getting divorce, is attorney fees. There is no standard fee or rate. Most competent family law lawyers charge by the hour, again with no standard hourly rate. Some lawyers charge upwards of $400 per hour. Some charge only a couple hundred an hour. Typically, the more seasoned and skilled lawyers charge a higher rate. Although, that isn't always the case. There are many quack lawyers that charge an exorbitant fee, even though they are less competent than some lawyers who charge less. As when hiring any professional, shop around, ask tough questions when you interview them (education, experience with your type of case, results they've obtained, what other people think of that lawyer, etc.). Keep in mind the following: because lawyers bill by the hour, the more time it takes to resolve your case (for instance, because there is much disagreement and conflict between spouses), then the more the divorce will cost in terms of attorney fees. The formula looks like this: more spousal fighting = more attorney time = higher fees. If you're in Sonoma or Marin County, feel free to contact me office with any further questions. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Edward Papa, Esq.
    Edward Papa, Esq. | Edward Papa
    You will likely need to retain an attorney on an hourly rate. There are undoubtedly more complex issues in many long term marriages that require additional attention particularly dealing with children and assets and retirement plans.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Law Office of Karen A. Clark, L.L.C.
    Law Office of Karen A. Clark, L.L.C. | Karen A. Clark
    The cost of a dissolution can vary depending on whether the parties are in agreement, whether there are minor children and/or whether there are significant assets. The most important thing when you are hiring an attorney is for you to feel comfortable with the attorney and his/her level of experience.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Arnold & Wadsworth
    Arnold & Wadsworth | Brian Arnold
    There are a lot of variable to this question. If it is uncontested then it will be cheaper, and if there are not that many assets. You need to have a consultation with a local attorney to really figure this out.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    You hire an attorney who you feel comfortable with and who will help you achieve your goals. There is no set cost for fees. You can shop around for various rates. If you are in my area and are looking for an attorney, please contact me for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller | Jody A. Miller
    The cost depends on many things - the issues involved, whether the case is contested or uncontested, the attorneys hourly rate, etc. As far as choosing an attorney, a referral from someone you know is usually a good place to start. You can also go to a reputable on-line site. Ask for the attorneys years of experience, whether they concentrate in family law, how well they know the judges.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Unfortunately, divorce fees are extremely difficult to predict. Often, the cost depends on the complexity of the issues and, perhaps, as importantly, the ability of the parties to negotiate reasonably on those issues.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Fox Law Firm LLC
    Fox Law Firm LLC | Tina Fox
    Retainers vary from state to state. You should hire an attorney that you are comfortable with after meeting this her/him. Most attorneys offer free consultations in an effort to meet the client before the client actually retains the firm so that everyone is comfortable. We, too, offer free consultations at this firm if you would to call to make an appointment.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Gregory T. Buckley, Attorney at Law
    Gregory T. Buckley, Attorney at Law | Gregory T. Buckley
    The filing fees vary by state. In Florida, the filing fee is $408.00, plus additional costs for the issuance of a summons and service of process. You should meet with an attorney in your area to determine if they are experienced and knowledgeable enough to assist you.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/8/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    The answer will depend on what state and county you are in, whether the case is contested or not, if you have children, what assets you have, etc. I like using the ratings on Avvo to help evaluate lawyers.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/8/2011
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