One of the most common questions I get as part of my divorce practice is, “How much is this all going to cost?” The short answer is, no one can really predict that. The long answer is, it’s probably going to cost a lot. There’s a couple of different factors that go into calculating how much your case is going to cost. For example, is your divorce uncontested or is it contested? Uncontested divorces are historically less expensive than contested divorces for a couple of reasons. Attorneys are paid by the hour, which means that the more work your attorney has to do on your case, the more expensive your case is going to be. For uncontested divorces, you and your spouse have already entered into what’s known as a property settlement agreement. That determines how you’re going to divide your stuff, it determines your spouse’s support, and it determines your parenting time and custody situation for your children as well as child support.
Once you have all those things figured out and entered into a signed agreement, there’s no need to go to court. Your attorney’s job is mostly filing the required paperwork with the court in order to submit your complaint for divorce and finalize your decree for divorce with the judge. Now, regarding a contested divorce, it’s a wholly different matter. When you file, you have nothing resolved and you’re going to be required to go to multiple hearings in front of the court and probably a settlement conference or two in order to try to resolve your dispute. This means there’s a lot of man hours spent on that case. Furthermore, there are a couple of complicating factors. If you have complex assets, for example, a business that needs valued, you’re going to need to hire an expert to assess your business, go over your records and come to court and testify.
If you have real property, again, you’ll need an expert to appraise the value and to come to court and testify. These are just some general complicating factors. There’s also unknowns. How well is opposing counsel and your attorney going to cooperate? Are they going to be able to work something out or are they going to be fighting every step of the way? So in order to predict how expensive your divorce is going to be, you need to look at the big picture snapshot of your marriage and your assets, and you need to think through how many things need to be valued by experts. And the more experts are required, the more complex your assets, the more expensive your case is going to be.