How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?

According to a 2020 survey, each spouse spends, on an average, $10,000 or more on a divorce lawyer. However, averages may not apply to your case because each case is unique and the divorce attorney’s fees can increase or decrease depending on factors such as:

How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?
  1. The state in which the divorce is filed
  2. Lawyer’s experience
  3. Whether the divorce is contested or uncontested
  4. Complications involved in the divorce
  5. Whether the case is going to trial
  6. Other factors that may influence attorney costs

The State in which the Divorce is Filed

The cost of hiring a divorce attorney will be different depending on which state you live in. Utah will cost less than New York, which will likely cost less than California, for example.. Family law attorneys in a city will obviously be more expensive than divorce lawyers in a rural area or a small town, and the rates vary within and outside the state.

The fees mentioned above include administrative costs, filing fees, and district fees, which vary by state. To get an accurate number, consider calling your county clerk’s office.

Lawyer’s Experience

Divorce lawyers mostly charge on a per-hour basis. A new and inexperienced lawyer in a small town may charge just $150 to $200/hour, while a similarly experienced lawyer in a city will probably charge a little more. Experienced attorneys are likely to charge $300–500/hour depending upon their years of practice.

An attorney who charges a low fee is likely to spend more time working on your case than an attorney who has years of experience. Moreover, the attorney that comes cheap may not be very thorough with the court processes, negotiating with the other spouse’s lawyer, or arguing before a judge. Also, though at first glance it seems that hiring a cheaper attorney can help reduce costs, know that the time taken by them when multiplied by their rate can more or less equal an experienced attorney’s rate. We recommend that you should work with an experienced lawyer who focuses exclusively on divorce.

Whether the Divorce is Contested or Uncontested

An completely amicable resolution to the divorce, which is also referred to as an uncontested divorce resolution, costs much less than a contested divorce. For example, in Utah an uncontested divorce costs anywhere from $1000 for cheap and inexperienced attorneys and $3000 for divorce lawyer specialists, whereas a contested divorce will cost between $3000 and $50,000, depending on the quality of lawyer and whether you go to mediation or trial.

Spouses choose uncontested divorce when it is easy to agree on things like alimony, child custody, division of common marital property, including the home, and more.

If the major issues cannot be resolved by mediation, then the case goes to court and that will naturally cost more.

Complications Involved in the Divorce

A family law attorney’s cost depends on how complex the divorce case is. The attorney will require more time to build the case if it involves:

  • Child custody matters on which the spouses cannot reach an agreement
  • Disagreement between the spouses on the division of common marital property
  • Alimony demands or offers that the other spouse does not agree to

A divorce is a tragic and unpleasant event and things like alimony, child support, property division, etc., worsen the pain and add to costs. If both spouses are unwilling to negotiate and come to an agreement , the case drags on, the attorney fees keep increasing, and so in such cases, the national averages do not apply. In some high-conflict cases, the fees can shoot up even beyond $50,000.

Whether the Case is Going to Trial

Cases that go to trial naturally need a higher attorney involvement, take a longer time, are more emotionally stressful, and therefore cost much more than cases that are settled at the pre-trial stage. Typically, our firm resolves 98% of the cases at the pre-trial stage.

Other Factors that may Influence Attorney Costs

  • If the parents do not agree on child custody, the court can order a custody evaluation, which usually costs between $7,500 to $10,000 and takes around 6 months to complete..
  • A spouse can choose to hire a full-scope attorney, who handles the entire divorce case, or he/she can consult an attorney for a part of the case. Naturally, the attorney that handles the case from start to finish will cost more.
  • Psychological evaluation of the parents or the child, if required by the court, will also add to the cost.
  • If an older child desires to live with one parent, and if the other parent does not agree, then a guardian ad litem lawyer may have to be appointed for the child. This is an additional attorney cost.
  • Property appraisal, including real estate valuation, these all cost extra.
  • Tax professionals hired for advising on the tax implications of property division cost extra.
  • Forensic professionals needed to discover what a spouse is concealing also cost extra.
  • When 401(k) or other retirement funds are to be divided, the spouses have to get a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) that provides instructions to the retirement plan administrator on how to split the assets. This too costs extra.

Ultimately, your divorce attorney fees depend on your geography, how complex your case is, and how easily and quickly it can be resolved.

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About the Author: Marco Brown
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Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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