Divorce comes with a lot of stress for most people, and financial questions are often a part of that stress. Beyond what your financial situation will look like as a newly single individual, you may be worried about how much the divorce process itself will cost.
Multiple factors can affect what you spend during the legal process, including which attorney you hire and how much you and your spouse agree on the major issues. While divorce can be an expensive process, you can often reduce your financial uncertainty and legal fees by following certain processes.
Understanding the Basics of Divorce Attorney Costs
Most lawyers charge their clients an hourly rate for their services. In many cases, they will have you pay a retainer upfront when your case begins. The retainer amount and fees vary from attorney to attorney, and whatever you pay goes towards the hours they spend working on your case.
There are also filing fees to consider in divorce. If you have a complicated divorce with a lot of paperwork involved, there will be multiple filing fees to pay.
Factors That Influence the Cost of a Divorce Attorney
Your location and the attorney you choose to work with both influence the cost of divorce. According to Nolo, the national average hourly rate for an attorney is $270, but rates tend to be higher in expensive places like the Greater Seattle area. You can also expect to pay a higher rate for an attorney who has many years of experience, as experience often leads to faster processes or better results.
The number of hours your attorney works on your case, and by extension the number of hours you pay for, depends on how complex the divorce is. You may make another retainer payment after using up the first one, or if the case is simple, the first one may satisfy the bulk of the fees. The quicker you get your divorce settled, the less you will spend.
In general, the divorce process will be more complex if you have:
- Children to provide for, especially if you and your spouse disagree about your parenting plan.
- Significant assets and/or debt, such as homes, vehicles, investments, credit card debt, or even student loans.
- Different income levels, especially if you were married a long time or one spouse spent more time on housework and parenting with a potential cost to their career.
- Disagreements about any of the above.
Who Foots the Bill? Dividing Divorce Legal Fees
In most cases, each party pays for their own legal fees. However, there are circumstances when the court orders one party to pay for the other’s fees. If one spouse doesn’t have an income of their own and is dependent on the other spouse’s earnings, that other spouse typically pays all the legal fees.
One of the best ways to reduce your legal costs is by doing your best to collaborate with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. While your emotions may be running high, divorce is less expensive if you and your spouse can work together to come to an agreement. The less contentious your case is, the quicker you can settle, and the lower your fees will be.
You can also seek alternative methods of settling your divorce such as mediation, which we’ll discuss below. It is best to meet with an attorney to discuss your options so you know what direction is best for your circumstance.
How to Reduce Your Divorce Expenses
A great way to reduce the overall cost of your divorce is to try reaching an agreement through mediation. If you are successful, you can avoid taking your case to trial, which is usually a lengthier, more expensive, and more emotional process.
Through mediation, both parties meet at an agreed-upon time with your legal representation. You work together with an impartial mediator to reach decisions about settling the case. The mediator is usually another attorney or a retired judge who is specifically trained in resolving cases outside of a courtroom.
If you don’t have many issues to resolve and are successful at reaching a resolution, you may only need one mediation session with relatively inexpensive legal fees. Going to a trial can easily span multiple days with longer waiting periods for your court dates, and it will be much more expensive.
Discuss Fees With Your Lawyer Early On
The best way to plan for the cost of your divorce is to discuss fees with your lawyer in the early stages of your divorce proceedings. They may be able to provide an estimate of how much your divorce is likely to cost, or at least what types of fees you will need to pay.
If nothing else, talking to your lawyer about fees gives you an idea about what to expect. Then you can strategize ways to minimize the cost to the best of your abilities.
Schedule a Consultation
If you are seeking a divorce in Snohomish County, WA, or the surrounding area, the Anderson Hunter Law Firm can help. Our team of divorce attorneys will work with you to create a plan for your budget and get you the resolution you deserve. Schedule a consultation today to get your questions answered and learn about your options.