Money Matters in Divorce: The Lowdown on Attorney Fees and Payment Responsibilities
Divorce can be devastating, stressful, and very expensive. If you’re going through one, you’re understandably worried about the financial implications of the entire process. When spouses are literally at each other’s throats all the time and emotions run high, a divorce can be financially crippling for either or both parties.
But the good news is that you can do something to dictate how much you pay for your divorce. Regardless of how your partner conducts themselves, there are steps you can take to help keep your legal fees to a minimum and stabilize your financial situation.
That said, here’s what you need to know about attorney fees, who is supposed to pay for them, and tips on how to lower the legal fees in your divorce case. While hiring a divorce attorney in Fort Worth costs money in legal fees, it can also put you in a better finanical position post-divorce and for the long run.
Types of Attorney Fees: Understanding the Differences
If you’re divorcing your spouse, you definitely want to know what attorney fees are involved in this legal process. You also probably want to understand how divorce attorneys charge their fees.
Attorney fees, or legal fees, is what a divorce attorney charges for their time. This includes fees for researching the cases, preparing legal documents, filing legal documents, preparing for court hearings, and presenting the client inside and outside of court.
There are several different types of fees a Fort Worth divorce attorney can charge:
A divorce lawyer can bill you by the hour. Many lawyers prefer to charge this way. They multiply their hourly rate by the hours they’ve worked. For instance, if the lawyer charges an hourly rate of $400 and they’ve worked five hours on your case, you’ll be charged $2000.
Some attorneys charge a different amount for different kinds of assignments, like appearing in court, compared to conducting legal research. Senior partners can charge a higher hourly fee than junior associates. Moreover, the client can be charged a separate hourly fee for legal support, like legal secretary or paralegal assistance.
Some attorneys can charge a flat rate for a specific case. This refers to a standard fee the attorney charges for a particular case. For instance, an attorney can charge $5000 for a contested divorce and $1000 for an uncontested one.
A flat fee usually depends on how long the attorney can realistically expect to work on a case. Some flat fee rates can include provisions on where the fee can be adjusted, like if an uncontested case turns into a contested one or a special case comes up.
Many attorneys charge clients a retainer fee upfront. This is essentially an advance payment on the attorney’s hourly rate. The attorney puts the retainer in a trust account where the legal services cost is deducted.
Throughout the course of the case, the attorney will send periodic billing statements to the client reflecting the amount subtracted from the retainer. Funds must be added to the retainer account should it reach a specific agreed-upon balance.
Some divorce attorneys offer a free consultation where they discuss the divorce process, what legal matters will be settled, how an attorney can help, and the potential merits and demerits of the case.
Alternative Fee Arrangements
There are alternative means available to help clients pay legal fees other than the conventional hourly rate. These fee arrangements include credit card payments, fixed monthly payments, or installments.
Other Divorce-Related Expenses
In the United States, a divorce costs about $15,000 on average. In most cases, attorney fees take up the bulk of divorce costs. But other costs like mediation costs, cost of evaluators, court fees, etc., only add to the overall cost. Here are other costs and fees that come with divorce:
- Filing fees: Different divorce lawyers charge different filing fees, depending on where you live. For example, fees may range from $70 to over $350 across different states. To find out your exact filing fee, you can contact the clerk’s office or visit the state website.
At the clerk’s office, you can also get additional information, such as the documents required and where to get them.
- Mediation: This is a non-adversarial approach to resolving divorce cases to avoid needing to proceed to trial. The court can order mediation for both of you, or you can each voluntarily attend mediation.
During mediation, an attorney-mediator, professionally trained mediator, or judge plays the role of an impartial third party that primarily helps both parties agree upon a settlement agreement.
In some cases, couples can get discounts and fee waivers if they can’t afford a mediator. On average, mediation costs around $200 an hour.
While the mediation process doesn’t require attorneys, it’s best to speak to your attorney before the start of mediation and before you sign any agreement. Depending on the fee arrangement you’ve got with your attorney, this can dramatically raise the total costs of mediation.
- Child custody evaluation: The overall cost of divorce is significantly increased when either spouse requests a child custody assessment, or the judge orders the same. A child custody evaluation typically takes place in cases where spouses can’t agree upon the terms of their parenting plan on their own or in mediation.
- A psychologist typically conducts child custody evaluations. He or she interviews the parents, observes the family’s interactions, and hangs out with the children.
- In general, court-appointed child custody evaluators cost $1,000 to $2,500. But private evaluators may cost over five times that sum.
Factors That Affect Attorney Fees in Divorce Cases
Divorce is always a difficult and costly process. No one wants to spend a fortune on attorney and court fees when undergoing a life-changing experience. You might need cash for other needs, such as moving away or buying a new house.
If you’re concerned about the cost of your divorce, it’s best to hire an experienced and reputable divorce attorney to get you through the process as affordably and quickly as possible. Below are the factors that may affect how much you pay for your divorce.
When you file for divorce, there are legal fees involved, which typically vary by the divorce attorney you hire. The right lawyer will expertly move through the process fast, fight to ensure you aren’t treated unfairly, and aren’t handed a financial blow in addition to dealing with a split.
The longer a divorce drags on and the number of times you must attend court, the more attorney fees you’ll have to pay. It’s always useful to work with a divorce lawyer you trust to defend your rights and treat you right.
Regardless of how or where you get divorced, the process requires you to split your marital assets. Division of property significantly affects the overall cost of divorce. Although you might not have to part with any cash to divide your marital assets, you can lose valuable items that cost money.
Based on how your divorce unfolds, you could be forced to divide some expensive assets if you can’t decide who will take them. This may include things like your car or home.
In some situations, you can either have to sell an expensive asset and share the proceeds or pay off your partner for the entire asset.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
Of course, more contentious divorces will cost more than less contentious ones. Divorces that involve partners that can’t reach a compromise or agree will typically proceed to litigation, an expensive, long-drawn-out process. Divorces that take long typically cost more, but when they go to trial, there are also extra fees, including court fees.
And during divorce litigation, the parties involved follow the court’s schedule, which can cause the process to take much longer and cost more. A divorce where the two parties agree to all the terms will progress faster and cheaper.
Involvement of Children
In most cases, divorces involving children are usually more expensive than those that don’t for various reasons. First, divorces involving children involve multiple issues, including child support and child custody. These problems will make the process take longer and be more costly.
Secondly, divorces involving children are more expensive because child-related issues are the most hotly contested in any divorce. Of course, the more contentious a divorce is, the more costly it is.
If one partner during a marriage has been depending on the other for upkeep, that partner can be awarded alimony. Although permanent alimony isn’t common anymore, many spouses pay their non-working spouse alimony until they can support themselves. Alimony often depends on the working spouse’s income and the non-working spouse’s needs.
Losing a means of livelihood can be overwhelming, and having to support your non-working partner financially can be equally stressful. Both spouses can struggle with alimony issues, making the divorce process longer and costlier.
Payment Responsibilities: Who is Responsible for Paying Attorney Fees in a Divorce?
Typically, each party in a divorce case pays their own attorney fees, with a few exceptions. However, when your partner files for divorce or you do the same, you’re expected to hire your lawyer. You can request your partner to pay your legal fees if:
- You’re a non-working spouse with little or zero income, for example, a stay-at-home parent.
- You’re a non-working spouse, and your partner has taken your name out of all shared accounts to another account, leaving you destitute.
- If your partner hasn’t behaved fairly and made the litigation unnecessarily drag on, unjustly raising your legal fees.
In these scenarios, the court strives to even the playing field when it comes to money during the divorce. Gender plays no part in these decisions since there isn’t a law that requires one party to pay attorney fees for the other based on gender.
Ultimately, the overall cost of a divorce depends on the intricacy of the problems involved, the attorney’s hourly rate, amount of effort and time needed to agree on a settlement or proceed to trial.
On top of attorney fees, divorce comes with other costs, including court fees, expert witness fees, and mediation fees.
Moreover, the parties involved may have to pay for financial analyses, property appraisals, and other professional services. But in general, each partner pays for their expenses and costs in a divorce.
Negotiating Attorney Fees: Tips for Reducing Costs in a Divorce Case
Divorce is a notoriously costly undertaking. Although divorce attorneys can be quite expensive, it’s vital to understand what’s at stake before deciding against using a lawyer. ¡
It’s always smart to find ways to reduce costs in your divorce case. Here are seven proven methods to help cut the costs attached to your divorce:
Staying organized can help you decrease how often you have to consult your attorney, thereby helping you save cash on your divorce. Keep all your vital documents organized and ensure you can easily access them. Remember, the more time spent calling your attorney to inquire about documents you can’t trace, the more cash you’ll spend.
Be Collaborative with Your Spouse
You can shun the hefty costs associated with divorce litigation if you can work out the details with your spouse in a non-contentious divorce. This will leave you with a simpler and much less expensive process.
Avoiding litigation takes away multiple steps that can take a long time and cost more money, such as mandatory financial disclosures and frequent hearings that might raise your divorce costs. Remember, anything that saves your lawyer’s time saves you cash.
If you’re unable to resolve your issues in private, mediation is another good way to avoid the lengthy and costly court process.
During mediation, a neutral third party (typically an attorney) with conflict resolution skills will handle the negotiations with your partner through part of or the entire process. The mediator plays some kind of umpire by steering the negotiations and making sure the couple sticks to what they’re negotiating.
If you and your spouse need help with resolving issues, mediation is a great option to try. The more you can work through things together, the better, as long as each party knows their facts, rights, and responsibilities.
A mediator works with facts to achieve a common goal and doesn’t get sucked into the emotional games that can easily crop up during a divorce. They can save you money and time by helping you both understand each other’s arguments more effectively.
If Possible, Get Fee Waivers
If you’re finding it difficult to fund your divorce costs and expenses, you can be eligible for waived court fees. But these waivers have no effect on lawyer fees. Each state has its own court fees, and this can even vary by county, ranging from around $80-$400.
Limited Assistance Representation
This is a service where a lawyer provides a client with limited legal representation in a specific area of law. This may include making limited court appearances, providing legal advice, or drafting legal documents.
Limited assistance representation (LAR) works in cases where you can handle certain aspects of your case by yourself but need assistance with certain matters. LAR could be an affordable option if you can’t afford full legal representation or only need assistance with a certain area of your case.
Pro Bono Representation
A pro bono arrangement is where your divorce attorney provides you with legal representation at a nominal to no cost. Pro bono divorce lawyers can serve one category, like single mothers or specific kinds of divorce, such as those characterized by domestic abuse. In fact, some legal firms focus solely on pro bono cases.
Look through online divorce services to find the right pro bono attorney for your needs. You can also search for a pro bono attorney at legal assistance organizations, legal clinics organized by law schools, and resources from local or state bar association sites.
Hire an Experienced Fort Worth, TX Divorce Attorney
Don’t make the mistake of working with an attorney that’s inexpensive as opposed to experienced. It’s vitally important to seek out a highly experienced legal representative because the outcome of your split can have a huge impact on your life for years to come.
Hiring the wrong divorce lawyer could cost you a fortune and headaches in the future. After all, you get exactly what you pay for!
Contact Us Today to Speak With a Texas Divorce Attorney
Before initiating the divorce process, it pays to know the cost of divorce and if there are methods to cut down on attorney fees. Remember, every divorce is unique, and it’s impossible to calculate your exact costs beforehand. Moreover, uncontested divorces are typically less expensive than contested one, so deciding to part ways amicably is a great way to save money on divorce and get your piece of mind.
At Mims Ballew Hollingsworth, we’ve got 75+ years of experience helping couples navigate the trying times of divorce. To protect you and your family’s rights and financial future, call us today at 817-952-6723 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.