If you’ve been considering divorce or are just starting the process, you might already be reeling at the prospect of paying a hefty price tag. A consultation could cost you a few hundred dollars. It’s well worth your money, but that’s only the beginning.
I hope you’ll consider what I’m about to share with you.
If you’re thinking about going to court for your divorce, the financial implications could be devastating. The financial cost is one of the reasons I stopped litigating cases years ago and why I now advocate so strongly for a collaborative approach. It’s my exclusive practice now.
So, How Much?
A few years ago, legal marketing firm Martindale-Nolo asked consumers how much they paid for their divorces, and attorneys how much they charged. In North Carolina, the cost varied widely depending on several factors, including the number of contested issues and whether the case went to trial. The higher the conflict, the higher the price tag. For one contested issue and no trial, their research showed a minimum of about $5,000. The cases that went to trial averaged between $12,000-$15,000. I’ve seen some cases go into six figures.
The bottom line is that typically the more cooperative the couple is, the smaller the bill. Can you see why I strongly support collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a voluntary process wherein both spouses commit to resolving their divorce outside of the court. Couples sign a legally binding contract in which they commit to work together, and with their respective attorneys, to separate assets, work out any child custody or spousal support issues, and minimize the collateral damage of divorce on their family as a whole.
Generally speaking, the collaborative process costs less than going to court. Here are some of the factors that can impact the total cost of your divorce:
Where You Live
You can’t help where you live, but where you live matters. Attorneys in Raleigh may not charge the same hourly rates as attorneys in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. If you live in New York City, your bill might be a lot higher than if you live in Mississippi, for example.
How many contested issues are there? If you have several issues to work through, such as child custody, alimony, property division, etc., it may add to your overall cost. However, if you and your spouse have no children and minimal assets to split, the total cost could be a lot less.
A seasoned attorney is worth his or her weight in gold, in my opinion. You cannot replace the working knowledge that an experienced attorney has of the law, the court system, and the process. That said, these attorneys charge accordingly for that expertise. An experienced attorney will likely charge a higher hourly rate for his or her services compared to an attorney who has been practicing for a year. You want to find the balance of attorney experience/hourly rate that works for you.
Settlement or Trial?
If you spend any amount of time on this site, you’ll know that I am a firm believer in settling divorces outside of court. I believe it is the best way to preserve your finances and your heart as much as possible. Settling cases will not only keep you out of court, but it will likely save money if the spouses and their attorneys can work together. But some couples simply can’t or won’t agree on their contested issues and they end up in court. The litigation process will cost you more money, time, and energy. Your attorney will have to file a lawsuit or respond to allegations, gather evidence, and prepare for trial.
There is a lot of work that goes into advocating for our clients. How many phone calls, e-mails, and/or meetings will it take to resolve your divorce? How many documents will your attorney be reviewing and drafting? How often will you be communicating with your attorney? Those costs are hard to predict, and they can add up, so it’s something to keep in mind. In the collaborative process, it’s possible to resolve all the issues more efficiently, which helps keep costs down.
When I opened the doors to Dasher Law, I wanted to do divorce differently. In fact, I made that my mission statement and I work every day to keep couples focused on staying out of court and moving on to the next new chapter of their lives.
If you’re ready to Divorce Differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC