Q: Why are legal fees so high in a Divorce?
A: Because they're worth it!
---Old Joke; Author Unknown (And Wisely So)
People who are "shopping around" by telephone often ask me "How much would a divorce cost?". I always tell them that I cannot even begin to estimate until I know the facts of their case, and then I invite them in for a (paid) consultation. Even after the consultation, usually I can at best only estimate.
In the past 10 years I have charged from as little as $1,000.00 for a no-asset, no-children, no-support issues divorce, to as much as $140,000.00 for a highly contentious divorce involving custody, visitation, property division, and spousal support for an entertainer earning seven figures. Lawyers charge for their time, and the more time they will need to expend, the more you will pay.
Your actual cost for a divorce will depend on the following factors:
1. How experienced is the attorney? Attorneys tend to charge more as they get older, more experienced, and gain more expertise in their areas of concentration.
2. How complicated are the financial issues? If you are trying to agree on values for businesses, stock options, foreign real estate, or there is an allegation that a spouse is hiding income or assets, experts will need to be hired (and paid).
3. Are there issues of custody and visitation? Parents should always put the best interests of their children first, and work out their parenting arrangements amicably. A bitter custody dispute can turn the simplest divorce situation into a financial Black Hole.
4. How contentious are the parties? Sometimes the bitterness which lead to the breakup carries over to the legal process. Often it wears down when the parties start getting their monthly bills from their attorney. However, some parties cannot agree what day of the week it is, let alone give the other side (and themselves) the satisfaction of closure. Unfortunately, as I warn my clients, they can be the most reasonable person in the world, but if their spouse (or their lawyer) is not, the unreasonable spouse can unilaterally drive up the cost of litigation for both of them.
How do you save yourselves from giving a substantial portion of your income and assets to the lawyers? Easy: find a trained Divorce Mediator together, go there with an open mind, and actually listen to each other. You will be amazed at how much cheaper and less emotionally draining it is.