What's it cost to hire a divorce lawyer?

I didn’t want to hijack this thread about a possible divorce, but I got to thinking, since I’ve never had to do it myself.

We’ve all been recommending the OP in the other thread talk to a lawyer but it occurs to me, just how much does it cost to “talk to a divorce lawyer?” What if the OP, or anyone for that matter, was broke? I’d imagine in many marriages one person makes and possibly controls most of the money, right?

When I got separated 12 years ago, the lawyer wanted 1200 up front, and when that was used up (in a couple of months worth of negotiations, I’d have to make regular payments to him of rather sizable amounts. I doubt that many parties are required to pay the legal expenses of the other, but I could be wrong about that.

If you’re broke you do it yourself, only paying filing fees and buying the paperwork.

Many times the first consultation is free, but I honestly can’t say what the retainer/billable hours are of a good divorce lawyer.

Q: What can it cost you Not to hire a good divorce lawyer?

A: How much you got?

There are some things in life it pays not to cheap-out on. This is one.

It depends where you are. It isn’t cheap. Around here, I would guess an associate’s time is $200.00 and a partner’s time is $300.00 on the low end. I knew one divorce attorney with thirty years experience who charged $450.00 an hour about three years ago.

I should ask my sister, but I don’t want to. She was a SAHM, homeschooling the kids. She asked for the divorce.

How’d she pay the lawyer? I know she didn’t have $1200. What if he’d said, “sorry, no money for you to spend on the lawyer.” They’re not rich. No way either of them had $1200 for a lawyer. At least I don’t think so.

When I got divorced my ex got a lawyer. Some how he was convinced that I was supposed to pay his wages, never did figure that one out. He actually handed me a bill for $4000 plus. I in turn a few days later sent him a bill for editing his work that was so full of mistakes it wasn’t even funny. He also never sent me my car titles and sent all letter to the wrong address even though I corrected that as well, should have turned him in for that.

My divorce was pretty easy and it came to that much. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was close to the norm.

Yeah, it definitely depends on where you live.

My stepson hired a lawyer to get full, permanent custody of his two little girls. He wasn’t married to their mother, and I don’t know if that made things easier or harder. It cost him $900 total. If he lived in a city, even a relatively small one like Des Moines, it would probably have cost him two or three times that.

My brother’s Seattle divorces were all cheap – $500 or so – but the marriages were short, the divorces were uncontested, there were no kids, and there was no property to speak of. I did the third one for him and all he had to pay was the filing fee and the fee to have the papers served on his wife. He used a lawyer for the fourth because he and Ex #4 had bought a house together.

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.

I just saw a lawyer for this very purpose. The consultation was free. Uncontested, the divorce should cost about $2000. She charges $175 per hour. She figures 10 hours. Plus, filing fees.
I hope to get at least $30,000 for my share of the house we bought, so to me this will be worth it.
My soon- to -be- ex- husband will most definitely drag his feet about selling the house he’s in, so it’s a good thing I have a lawyer. :rolleyes:

Sounds like one of my favourite clients. She ran up a $45,000 bill with another lawyer, who did a good job taking care of most of the issues. She then came to me when her ex dragged his feet on his pension division and on support – we even had to take it to court. Now we are trying to get him to sell the house, as per a court order her previous lawyer obtained, but he is still dragging his feet, so we will probably have to take him to a judge for contempt. Every time he gets taken to court, he gets smacked down by the judge, who orders costs against him, but he still drags his feet. As far as I can tell, he does not care how much he is hurt, as long as he gets to hurt my client. He’s a passive-aggressive piece of shit that keeps floating up again no matter how many times he is flushed. Lawyers, plumbers, pretty much the same.

Anyway, when it comes to feet draggers, a good lawyer can save you a lot of delay, and a lot of money that often goes along with a delay (everything from occupation cost to mortgage default). Just light a fire under thems feets.

I have a friend here in SoCal getting the divorce ball rolling. She was quoted a retainer of $5000, $7500 if children are involved.