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The Financial Cost of Divorce

Love is grand; divorce a hundred grand. ~Author Unknown

Attorney's Fees

If you wish to choose the adversarial process with the idea of “getting what you deserve from the divorce,” there are some things you should know.  First let’s look at how an attorney usually bills for their time.  An hourly rate is set for the attorney’s time - $300 to $500 per hour is not uncommon.

You or may not be asked to provide the attorney with a retainer (generally several thousand dollars) that the attorney holds onto and from which he deducts his ongoing billable time.  If the original retainer is used up before the divorce is finalized, you will be asked for more. If the attorney has paralegal staff and a legal secretary work on your case, then their time is also billed at their particular rates to you as well.

Second, hours are broken down into tenths of an hour (6 minute increments).  So let's say you make a 12 minute phone call to your attorney to check on your case and your attorney is charging you $400 per hour.  The 12 minutes on the phone is billed as two 6 minute increments or two tenths (.2 or 20%) of an hour. 

Two tenths (20%) of the four hundred dollars you are paying per hour means that your 12 minute phone call cost eighty dollars ($400 x .2 = $80). Any time spent by the attorney on your case (including reading/answering e-mails, reviewing paperwork, etc.) is calculated in the same way.

How it Begins to Add Up

As you get further into the process, costs can add up even faster, for such things as:

  • The discovery phase of the divorce: Each party is required to provide detailed information to opposing counsel. Based on the attorneys’ reviews of the responses (which is billable), the attorneys can then file motions (also billable) for more responsive and detailed answers to those questions. Then the new answers are reviewed (again-billable).
  • Complaints, counter complaints, pleadings;
  • Objections can be filed at any time and result in hearings;
  • Other motions can be filed to freeze and/or move assets;
  • And so on…….

If, after all of the questions have been answered, the motions and objections ruled on and there is still no agreement, then you go to trial. A trial requires even more time to prepare the case, prepare witnesses, take depositions, be in court, etc.

There are other "costs" to consider as well.  Frequent meetings with attorneys, appearances in court, and a potential trial will almost always happen during the day.  This means lost time at work with potential loss of income and benefit time.  If you have children and one parent is home with them during the day, you may also incur additional child care expenses to attend all of those meetings and court dates.

The Outcome

When you include the amount of time spent reviewing documents, going to court, preparing for court, dealing with the opposing parties, or anything else related to your case, a retainer of several thousand dollars can and will be eaten up fairly quickly. (Remember: a 12 minute phone call can cost $80).

So, usually by the end of the process, the result is a divorce where neither party feels good about what they put their children, themselves or their former spouse through, there is a lot less money from the marital estate to use for the children and to share and no-one really “won.”

Now, because both of you have attorneys, multiply all of it by two.

Why should I be your Mediator?

In contrast to an attorney, I charge a flat hourly rate for the mediation sessions. There is also a flat fee for the completed “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) that becomes the basis for the final decree signed by the judge. These costs are usually shared by the both of you - but who pays the fee can also be mediated - sometimes one party will pay the fee in exchange for something else.

Mediation meetings - when both parties are committed to the process - are less frequent because the two of you are deciding what the final agreement will be as opposed to fighting over it. Meetings can sometimes be scheduled after traditional working hours as well depending on my schedule.

Finally, and in the spirit of full disclosure: Since I am not an attorney, I cannot go to court with you to represent you; nor can I create the official legal document that the judge signs.  I will however refer you to attorney(s) who will review the MOU for you (if you wish that) and represent the both of you in court. I assure you that even with the expense of the attorney’s very limited time for this part of the process, mediation will still be a more cost-efficient alternative to litigation.

Please call 860.678.0323 to discuss fees.