Finding the best divorce lawyer who is both experienced and affordable is the real challenge. Lots of your energy will be spent on hiring a divorce lawyer and even more on actually going through the painful experience of getting divorced. It can be emotionally exhausting, especially if you and your partner aren’t on good terms.
Family law cases can be complicated when issues like child custody, alimony, and asset division are unresolved. Be prepared to fight your spouse’s attorney and their demands in court for quite some time before reaching your ultimate goal.
In this guide, we’ll cover how to find the right divorce lawyer, the costs of hiring one, and ways to reduce fees. Let’s get started.
How to Find the Right Divorce Attorney?
The responsibilities of divorce lawyers are to aid with issues that arise during the divorce proceedings, handle paperwork, and do the negotiations on behalf of a client. The countless issues you might face can be anything from child custody evaluations to property division, among other complexities. Ideally, your divorce lawyer should have previous experience in marriage termination and is capable of advising on efficient strategy. Having an expert in handling communication and a master of legalities in your team will give you peace of mind.
There are also different types of divorce attorneys for different divorce cases. Thus, when choosing a candidate to represent you in the court, take that into account. Before hiring a divorce lawyer, some of them will offer free consultations that are highly recommended to use. A consultation is an interview where both parties ask relevant questions to determine whether they are a good match. Take this chance to learn whether a divorce attorney can envision and strategize on your individual divorce process.
Here are the questions you should ask your potential divorce lawyer:
- How long have you been practicing family law?
- What is the estimated cost for your legal services?
- What types of divorce (litigation, mediation, etc.) do you handle?
- Have you worked on similar divorce cases like mine?
- What have been the outcomes of those cases?
Remember to make a list of the right questions that are relevant to your case. Asking about the role of an attorney in a procedure is also a good idea. Your potential lawyer can offer to keep the costs down by allocating some tasks to you.
Use consultations to your advantage. This is your chance to learn whether the attorney is worth the money. You will also be able to decide whether the lawyer can meet your expectations and needs. Other factors to take into consideration are:
- Experience: When checking the expertise of a divorce lawyer, look at the attorney’s years of practice in family law. You can dig deeper and ask whether a lawyer is knowledgeable about judges and the court system. Having an experience with bar associations is also a good sign.
- Approach: Learn how the divorce lawyer sees the strategy of handling your case. It is important to know if your legal representation will favor reaching an ultimate goal by solving a problem without going to court. Some divorce attorneys tend to have more aggressive strategies that you might prefer to avoid.
- Trust: Divorce is an exhausting and troublesome process that involves risks and failures. As a client, you should have realistic goals. Your attorney, in turn, should think critically. Trusting the decisions your divorce lawyer will make is yet another aspect that will be required from you. Find a representative with whom you will feel most comfortable and who will treat you with respect.
Your divorce lawyer will be your guide that will help you make critical decisions when you feel overwhelmed with emotions. Therefore, choosing the right divorce lawyer is key to a successful outcome of your case.
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?
Probably the most pressing issue of divorce is the attorney fees. Legal fees can add up to a substantial amount, but they shouldn’t be a decision-making factor. Hiring an inexperienced divorce lawyer for a complicated case may lead to undesired extra costs or inevitable outcomes like actually losing the case.
The price depends on many factors, mainly on the strategy an attorney chooses to employ for your individual case. Other factors raising the final price are kids and finances. Child custody, child support, asset division, debts, and other issues are more difficult to handle and, consequently, cost more.
The couple that is struggling to come to a mutually-beneficial decision would spend an estimated range from $20,000 to $200,000.
If there aren’t any contesting issues, the cost can go down to about $3,000 – $10,000.
Legal fees will increase if your case involves complexities. The average hourly rate varies, from $100 to a hefty $500+.
A better alternative to the hourly rate is a flat price. During a consultation, an attorney can give you a flat price until the case is over. This may be a more affordable option, but the price can also greatly vary from only $500 to a whopping $20,000+.
Divorce lawyers charge less on a limited basis, while full-scope divorce attorneys charge double or more.
What Increases the Attorney Fees?
To calculate the estimated cost you will pay for an attorney, you need to know what legal services the expense will include. Here are the things that might empty your wallet:
If there are no disputes and you don’t need to go to trial, the fees are reasonable (about $5,000). Going to trial is what adds up to your expense and can double and even triple the final price.
One of the biggest and priciest contested issues is child custody, especially when parents fail to agree on it. Not only is it time-consuming and exhausting, but also drastically increases the price.
When partners cannot come to an agreement, they are obliged to try custody mediation. Child custody mediation is supposed to help make a decision regarding their children as painless as possible. This means a couple meets a mediator who guides them and assists in dealing with their personal issues.
If mediation proves to be ineffective, a judge may order a custody evaluation. Depending on whether a mediator is private or not, the expense can range from $1,000 to $15,000. It is also possible for partners to hire their own evaluators.
In some cases, a judge might order a couple to hire a lawyer for their child to represent his or her interests. Other cases may require a counselor or a psychiatrist.
The longer it takes to resolve disputes, the bigger the bill becomes. Note that some divorce lawyers might be charging separately for calls and emails you make when disagreeing yet another time with your spouse.
Investigating financial discrepancies might not be a part of lawyers’ responsibilities, and they may hire a forensic accountant. The accountant of this kind will look into the spouse’s financials to find hidden assets (if any).
If you are not in charge of finances in your household, there is a possibility your partner will try to benefit from it.
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
Some divorce cases may require a QDRO document if a couple needs to divide pensions or a retirement plan. Getting it is a complicated matter, and making mistakes will lead to costly expenses. Divorce lawyers should be up for a challenge for an average reward of $1,000.
When the document is prepared, it needs to be approved or qualified by the plan administrator, who then divides the retirement accounts according to what is specified in the QRDO.
Divorce lawyers get to deal with a wide range of issues. While they are costly, non-attorney expenses will also arise. When planning your budget, you should allocate some money for paying for basic court fees or obtaining some necessary documents.
How to Reduce Attorney Fees?
The complexity of your divorce case might not allow you to save up costs on an attorney. Even though divorce lawyers are pricey, it can be risky not to hire any. So, if your divorce case involves a handful of disputes that need taking care of, hiring a full-scope divorce lawyer is your best option.
Agreeing on a number of things with your spouse can drastically reduce the expense of an attorney. It could be a win-win situation for both spouses if you are willing to resolve issues yourself.
Generally, a divorce without major issues is called an uncontested divorce, meaning the case lacks complexity and requires minimum work on disputes. Not only is the price incomparably cheaper, but it also can be dealt with alone with limited legal help.
The next factors that affect the price are unsuccessful negotiations and the duration of a divorce process.
If you want to keep the expense to the minimum, do your best to negotiate the settlement with your spouse. Try to resolve all the issues before going to court. Otherwise, taking your divorce to trial will drastically raise your bill.
Another change in your divorce process that can reduce the price is asking your divorce attorney to do only selective tasks. Other paperwork can be handled by paralegals.
Contested or Uncontested Divorces
An uncontested divorce is one where partners agree on all aspects of their divorce (debt, property division, child support, etc.). Hiring a divorce lawyer isn’t necessary at this point, but a consultation with one would be valuable. You can have a DIY divorce where you handle all the paperwork using a form of software that navigates you through the divorce proceedings. The best part is that this option is affordable, and you don’t need to be knowledgeable in family law to do that.
Saving up costs would be impossible when having a contested divorce. A contested divorce is the most unpleasant but necessary if you want to protect your rights. Unlike an uncontested divorce, this one leads to many complexities, mainly connected to disputes and disagreements. For this case, you are highly recommended to hire a divorce attorney. It is never cheap because lawyers can charge a hefty sum per house, and there can be lots of hours involved in your case.
Luckily, if your spouse agrees on a handful of issues, you can opt for a limited contested divorce.
Collaborative Divorce or Mediation Process
Uncontested and contested divorces aren’t the only options in a divorce. You don’t necessarily have to fight each other but choose to try a different approach to resolve disputes. One such approach is a divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce.
Both types of divorce share a lot of similarities and a handful of differences. A mediator works with both spouses to guide them through issues but never legally represents any of them. In contrast, a collaborative attorney works with your spouse’s lawyer to come to a mutual agreement. A neutral financial specialist and a divorce coach are present to aid in creating a parenting plan and talking through problems.
When it comes to price, a collaborative attorney can be slightly more expensive than hiring an independent mediator. The average cost of mediation is about $5,000-$10,000. Having said that, a collaborative attorney is still more affordable than a contested one.
Choosing an amicable approach to your divorce will ensure the case doesn’t drag for years.
Getting a Free Divorce Lawyer
Getting divorced can be a luxury because of the expense some people are simply unable to pay. Finding a free lawyer sounds like a mission impossible; however, the reality is different.
Unfortunately, the court system doesn’t appoint an attorney to represent someone in a civil legal matter, contrary to a criminal case. However, there are pro bono attorneys who will take cases free of charge.
In case there aren’t any available local attorneys, you can opt for a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) divorce. A DIY divorce sounds like a lot of work, and at some point, it is. Luckily, there are numerous online platforms that help with the process. Note that you won’t have legal representation and will be required to do everything yourself. You can find free divorce forms online, and some online services offer affordable legal consultation.
What if there are no divorce lawyers practicing law free of charge? Luckily, there is no need to despair. There is the third option that might as well be the most suitable for you – a DIY divorce. DIY divorces are a budget way out of the marriage when divorcing spouses can come to a mutual agreement. In this case, both of you can save a bunch of money; hiring a divorce lawyer would be unnecessary.
So, how does it work? Most reputable online divorce services have a 3-step process:
- Eligibility: Before you start the process, you need to learn whether an online divorce option exists in your state.
- Questionnaire: To understand the complexity of your case, you will need to answer questions regarding your case. Usually, it is about assets, children, debts, and other general questions about marriage.
- Divorce papers: Once access to divorce papers is available, you will need to fill them in.
DIY divorce services usually have detailed instructions included, specifically how to handle the paperwork properly.
DIY divorces are a suitable alternative to lawyers when your spouse is cooperative and willing to resolve issues peacefully. Because of that, you can expect your divorce to be significantly cheaper and faster.
If you want to avoid conflicts and legal issues, consider hiring a divorce attorney or a consulting attorney to help you navigate through the risks.
Divorce is a painful process that not only overwhelms you with emotions but also forces you to live through challenging moments in your life.
The steep expense of hiring an attorney is worth it when you experience a lot of disagreements with your spouse. Going through the lengthy process of parting with a person you’ve spent years with is challenging. That’s why having an expert by your side will help you leave your marriage on good for your terms. Your main criteria when choosing an attorney shouldn’t be price but rather the expertise and approach a professional has.
On the contrary, you might consider a limited contested divorce or a consultant to assist you during the process.
You should consider a DIY option only when your divorce is caused by, for example, faded love or a shift of interests in life and involves no grudge. It’s one of the most affordable options that can save you a ton of time. Additionally, you can hire a legal consultant to check whether everything you do is within the law.