When you are driving down the road and your car makes a funny noise, you probably will start getting nervous and imagining worst-case scenarios for how much it will cost you to fix the problem.
That is the feeling that many people have when they are considering a divorce. They want to know, how much do divorce attorneys charge?
Cheap option – simple, uncontested divorce
Many states have recognized that most divorcing couples simply have very little to fight over. One study found that 74% of millennials came into the marriage with debt, while only 39% of baby boomers did.
Another survey found that 40% of adults do not have the financial ability to cover a $400 unexpected expense with cash. In short, a lot of couples do not have much to fight about in divorce. Many states, like Texas, for example, make it easy to get an uncontested divorce where children are not involved and the couple can come to an agreement on splitting their assets.
An uncontested divorce in Texas could cost under $300 in filing fees.
Lawyers typically charge (a lot) by the hour
It is hard to answer the question, how much do divorce attorneys cost?
That is because divorce attorneys fees vary widely. Most charge by the hour, so we can at least get an idea of how much a lawyer will charge. To use the Texas example, a study by the local bar found the average fees to be $281 per hour. Some lawyers will charge less, but others will charge much more.
More importantly than the rate sometimes is the amount of work required.
Many couples have an equal understanding of their situation, and they can easily negotiate a split of their assets with the help of lawyers and other professionals.
Other lawyers will need to engage in an expensive process called “discovery,” where they gather information on the couple’s financial situation. This can require hiring expensive experts and fighting over access to information in court.
Discovery is often just the beginning.
Sometimes a case will settle after the couple spends a few thousand dollars on discovery because then they will all be working from the same set of facts.
In other cases, once discovery is complete the couple will then commence fighting over the assets. With two teams of lawyers charging by the hour the cost can get extremely high.
In a divorce who pays for attorneys fees?
When you are thinking about how much an attorney will cost, you also have to think about who will pay.
When a couple is getting divorced each spouse usually has very little money of their own.
For the most part, they are fighting over the assets they share, and those assets are going to have to be used to pay the lawyers. Each side will usually pay their lawyer out of their share of the assets, though one side paying all the fees may be part of a settlement.
Another option to consider is splitting one lawyer.
Many lawyers are willing to take on a joint representation where the couple splits the fee and the lawyer works to help the couple negotiate the terms of their divorce and then file it in court. This process can be great if a couple knows they can get to an agreement and they just need a lawyer to help them do it right.
If the couple breaks down into fighting then each spouse might need to hire their own lawyer and the costs can skyrocket.