The Costs of Divorce and Cost-Saving Alternatives

From hiring an attorney in Tallahassee, Florida to initial filing fees, you will have upfront expenses.  In this article, the costs of litigation are broken down and compared to other alternatives such as mediation, uncontested divorce, and the collaborative divorce process.

If you search the internet (which I recently did), you will learn that the cost of divorce varies widely, from $500 to $100,000.  In a recent Business Insider article, a study found that the average divorce costs $15,000 in the United States. There are numerous variables that impact the cost of your case.

Divorce involves certain fixed costs, such as the filing fee paid to the court.  In Florida, the filing fee for a divorce is around $400.  Your spouse may file their own petition, doubling the filing fees.  You also pay to have your spouse served, which typically costs around $75.  There are other costs involved in court appearances, including paying a court reporter and securing the appearances of witnesses.  

These costs can add up quickly, but the greatest expense in most divorce cases is attorney fees.  The average hourly rate for lawyers is $270 an hour, with most individuals paying above $300 per hour.

How Can You Reduce Attorney’s Fees?

There are a few ways to reduce attorney’s fees.  First, you could hire the least expensive attorney.  However, most hourly rates are based on an attorney’s experience and education.  The least expensive attorney may be inexperienced or less qualified by skill or reputation, so he or she may undercut their rates to get business.  Although you may save money initially, this attorney may cost you more in the long run if mistakes are made in your case.  Some mistakes may be irreversible.  A skilled attorney who works efficiently may charge more per hour but will likely need fewer hours to get the job done and will do the job correctly.  

Second, you could act to reduce the disputes between you and your spouse.  The biggest contributor to cost is conflict.  The more conflict between you and your spouse, the more likely your divorce will take longer and cost more.  Frequent disputes mean frequent calls to attorneys, motions filed, and court appearances.  The more acrimonious the case, the more likely it will involve hiring expensive experts to resolve issues between the parties.  Finally, going to trial can double the costs of your case.

Also, beware of attorneys who bill themselves as “aggressive.”  Remember that increased conflict results in more phone calls, motions, and court appearances.  Instead choose an assertive attorney who will firmly and respectfully stand up for your rights, instead of one who is inflammatory.  An experienced attorney will help resolve conflict to move your case forward in a productive manner.

Third, you could reduce attorney’s fees by reducing attorney time.  Follow the instructions of your attorney.  If he or she requests certain financial documents, provide well-organized and complete financial documents.  If you have questions for your attorney, compile these into one well-organized email, instead of sending multiple emails with individual questions.

Other Cost-Saving Alternatives

With the high costs of conventional divorce litigation, many couples are using alternative processes such as uncontested divorce, mediation, and collaborative divorce.

Uncontested Divorce

When spouses have no disputed issues in their divorce, an uncontested divorce is an option.  This is the quickest and least expensive divorce process.  Most uncontested divorce cases are completed within 2 months at a fraction of the cost.

Mediation

Some couples use a neutral mediator to help resolve disputed issues.  The mediator does not represent either party and cannot provide legal advice, but they can help couples negotiate and problem solve.  The mediator will create the written agreement, but he or she does not help you navigate the court system.  Mediation is an option couples may use at any time, including prior to filing their case or during their case, with or without attorneys.    

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce requires a commitment by both spouses not to go to court, and to instead work privately with a team of skilled professionals to decide issues between themselves. At a minimum, the team consists of the parties, their collaborative attorneys, and a trained mental health professional.  The “team” meets frequently with a planned agenda to discuss disputed issues in a respectful manner, working to resolve the entire case within 90 days.  Although there are more professionals involved, collaborative divorce is typically less expensive because there are no motions, formal filings, depositions, or lengthy court battles.  

Rachel Borntreger is an experienced, knowledgeable, and honest family law attorney who cares about her clients and works hard to achieve each client’s goals.  If you would like to schedule a consultation with Rachel, call our office at (850) 694-1411. 

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