Because I can almost count on being asked this question in a consultation I thought I would finally blog about it. The question usually refers to how much in attorney fees will the client have to pay from start to finish to obtain a divorce. Usually my answer is its impossible to say, but let me explain why.
Most family law attorneys bill by the hour. They usually require a retainer up front. In my experience that retainer can range anywhere from $2500.00-10,000.00. The hourly rate can also vary greatly, anywhere from 200 per hour to about 700 per hour depending on experience, geographical area, size of firm etc.
The next factor in how much in fees you have will to pay is the general tone of the divorce and the issues that need to be resolved. If there are children involved and the divorce will involve highly contentious custody litigation with expert witnesses and evaluations, significant attorneys fees will follow.
Also if there are alot of assets to be divided or a business involved that also requires accountants and experts and valuations, that will also result in significant attorneys fees. If a person is hiding assets and a fair amount of discovery or fact finding must be done in order to ascertain what the assets and debts of the marriage are, that will, again, result in large fees.
If the other spouse retains overly aggressive counsel or counsel who deliberately acts in such a way to run up the bill, unfortunately that will run up your bill as well because your attorney will have to respond to the excessive paperwork, letters or phone calls from the other attorney.
If the divorce is one where you and your spouse tend to have few issues that you agree on and everything from dividing the 401k to dividing the coffee cups is litigated or addressed through your respective attorneys, that will contribute to a high cost divorce.
Notwithstanding the above, there are some issues worth fighting for and you simply can’t afford NOT to fight about them, however what these issues are is different for everyone, depending on your own value system. It is important to find an attorney who will advocate for your rights, understands your values and what your ultimate goal is and will represent you within your budget constraints.
If you would like to learn more about Moore Family Law Group fees and representation please call for a free consultation at (951) 463-5594.
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While I’m in general agreement with you, I think there are divorces that don’t require attorney participation. In California they are those cases that qualify for “summary divorce.” The criteria include: low assets, no children (and no current pregnancy!), low debt (if any), marriage less than five years, both parties want the divorce, and neither makes a claim for spousal support against the other, and they have both read the brochure telling them what to watch out for, especially with respect to the support waiver.
Court forms are nasty. I you had to file an income tax in Turkey for one year, you would probably want to get someone who spoke Turkish and knew about tax returns to do it for you. The effort required to learn how to do it yourself wouldn’t be justified for a one-time transaction. So it is with dealing with the court’s divorce forms – only I’ve come to think that its worse than filing a tax return in Turkey (which I’ve never done).
I am family law specialist in California and I am appalled by what’s become – at least in California – the conventional practice of family law. Honestly, it might be cheaper to lose whatever you have because the court forms where incorrectly completed or the judgment was inadequate than to put your head into the maw of a divorce lawyer. I have joined with other professionals in the field to write about the cause of expensive and painful divorces. We describe the tactics, some subtle and some blatant, lawyers use to drive their clients into acrimony. While they operate within (wholly inadequate) rules of professional conduct, their objective is the generation of fees. To dramatize this abuse we say that the lawyers eat their clients alive in an act of professional cannibalism.