It's impossible to predict how much you will spend on attorneys and court fees in your divorce. But you can be sure that the total cost of your divorce will depend largely on the nature of your relationship with your spouse.
There are several factors that can increase the total cost of your divorce, including the nature of your relationship with your spouse, the extent of your assets, your attorney, and the method by which you divorce.
If you and your spouse are on good speaking terms and can agree on most of the issues in your divorce (such as alimony, child custody, child support, and the division of property) you will spend less money on attorneys and court fees. If you can focus on the big picture and the end goal (which should be to divide as much property between yourselves as possible, and not spend it all on lawyers) you may be able to keep divorce costs down.
If, on the other hand, you and your spouse can’t even sit in the same room without blowing up at each other and refuse to agree on anything, you will likely end up in a lengthy and very expensive divorce trial.
If you have a substantial assets (such as homes, cars, jewelry, bank accounts or retirement plans) or a complex financial situation involving businesses, partnerships, other investments or debt, your divorce may ultimately cost more. This is because, typically, attorneys must analyze complex or large estates to determine both value and “character” (whether property is martial – meaning jointly owned – or separate) using the laws of the state where the divorce is taking place.
Your attorney may also recommend that you hire a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, as well as an expert in pensions or real estate, to make sure that your assets and debts are valued property and divided fairly. The cost of these professionals, though necessary, can be extremely expensive.
All divorce attorneys charge fees, so ask what your attorney charges per hour and about any other costs (such as charges for copies and file set up). And don’t forget that attorneys charge for all the work they do on your case, including responding to emails and phone calls; so use your attorney wisely.
The money you spend on your divorce will also be affected by your specific attorney’s divorce strategy, so it’s important that you meet with at least a few attorneys and research their experience thoroughly before choosing a lawyer.
For more information about what to ask during your first consultation with a divorce lawyer, read Your First Meeting with a Divorce Attorney.
Using mediators or collaborative lawyers, rather than taking your case to court, can significantly decrease costs. Many couples go to mediation, without lawyers, and resolve their divorce cases. Other couples go to mediation, but hire independent attorneys, who work in a consulting role to provide advice about legal rights and responsibilities, and/or to draft or review a divorce settlement agreement.
If you still have a decent relationship with your soon-to-be ex and believe you can work together on your divorce-related issues, there are several options that might allow you to resolve your divorce outside of court, such as Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Divorce.
If both spouses have the right attitude, you should be able to resolve your divorce without it dragging on forever or destroying your budget. Of course, if you are willing to settle, but your spouse refuses to be reasonable, you will probably have to hire an attorney and may end up in court anyway.
If you have divorce-related questions, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney in your area.