This is probably the most frequently asked question of family law attorneys. Simply answered, “It depends”. Filing fees, service fees, retainer fees and hourly rates are easy enough to determine. However, no attorney can accurately predict how much a divorce will actually cost. Anyone who alleges otherwise is not worth the free consultation they are giving you.
To illustrate the point further, imagine that you need to travel from Los Angeles to Orange County. Pretend that you have never made this journey before and that you have no means of self-transportation. So, you hire a cab. As you step into the cab, you ask “How many times will you hit the brake as we make the drive?” Even though the cab driver has traveled this very route before, it is an impossible question to answer accurately without guessing. Traffic conditions, weather, the driving patterns of other drivers, road rage, and unanticipated hazards will change from day to day.
Similarly, family law matters have various moving parts and are even more difficult to predict. How much time and attention will your case require? How willing are you to compromise with your spouse or partner? Does your attorney know the law and work well with others? What positions and arguments is the other attorney making? Are they supported by the law, or driven by emotion? Will your matter require litigation? Is the judge available to hear your case on the date set? These are just a few of the many questions that could impact the cost of your case.
As a result, most family law lawyers bill by the hour. They also charge a “retainer fee”, which is a lump sum that is deposited into an account and is billed against as the work is performed. The hourly rates vary from $250 an hour on up to more than $1,000.00 per hour and more, depending on attorney experience, knowledge, skill, and demand. Likewise, retainer amounts vary from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, on up, depending on the nature of the case, the complexity of the issues and the work anticipated. Many cases necessitate additional retainer deposits.
While it may be impossible to tell how much a divorce will actually cost, it will certainly cost more without competent legal help. Family law matters are paid for with far more than just money. Far too often, children end up paying the price for their parent’s improperly handled case. A good attorney will assist you through the process in a cost effective manner.