The more experienced the lawyer, the higher the hourly rate. Just like most trades persons, lawyers usually charge by the hour, plus disbursements/expenses plus tax. What the final bill comes to depends on how many hours they have to put into the job, which will be determined by what the issues are, and how willing both parties are to working out a settlement, or conversely, how pig headed one or both parties are.
In simple matters when both parties are reasonable on all the issues, the cost may be only a few thousand dollars between the two of them for both their lawyers. (And if they march into a lawyer’s office with the cornerstones of an agreement already in place, it can even be significantly less expensive than this).
It only gets really expensive when one or both parties are assholes, or crazy. Then the sky is the limit, with matters costing in the tens of thousands of dollars, and parties going back to court year after year, picking at their wounds.
Usually a lawyer will want some money up front so that if the client skips, there will be enough on deposit to cover the last bill. When the party does not have enough money, the lawyer may suggest having a family member fund the case, or making arrangements to get paid out of the proceeds of the lawsuit.
Since there is such a tremendous range of costs in family matters, it is not possible for a lawyer to give an estimate without first having an in-depth discussion with the client. Is it $300 plus disbursements for a joint divorce with no custody, support or property issues? Is is $3,000 for a basic separation agreement and divorce, with custody, support and property issues addressed and quickly settled? Is is $30,000 for a trial on one or more issues? Or is it one of those big ones involving family businesses, acrimonious support disputes and ongoing custody wars, where the lawyers get a lot of money? Most lawyers will chat with you for free or for one or two hundred bucks to try to estimate what you need done and how much it might cost.
Something that I would like to stress is that a divorce need only be as expensive as the parties make it. Separation and divorce negotiations can be quick and simple if both parties just want everyone get a fair shake and then get on with their lives. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who are emotionally unbalanced – irrational or mean or both. Those are the ones who fight when a reasonable person would simply negotiate a fair settlement. If you are married to one of these types, god help you, for you may have to pay a lot to a lawyer to fight through to a minimally acceptable resolution for you. If you are one of these types that causes grief and financial ruin to your spouse simply because you are bat shit crazy and generally rabid, fucko off, and expect a costs award to go hard against you.