Tuesday, April 1, 2014

So, How Much Will a Divorce Really Cost?

In King County, there is a $290.00 filing fee for a Dissolution of Marriage. However, filing fees vary from county to county. In addition, if you have children, you are required to attend a parenting seminar. The fee for the seminar is $40. Ultimately the total amount that you spend on a divorce will depend on various factors, such as: 
  • Whether you hire an attorney and how much time the attorney spends on your case;
  • Whether you need to pay for a guardian ad litem for the children or a parenting evaluation; 
  • Whether you need to file any motions;
  • Whether you need to attend mediation or arbitration;
  • Whether you need to hire expert witnesses (i.e. accountants, medical experts, etc.);
  • Whether you need to go to trial;
  • The complexity of financial issues, regarding property division, debt, and retirement benefits. 

Although reliable sources on the true average costs are hard to come by, most online sources are stating that the average cost of divorce in the United States is between $10,000.00 and $15,000.00. However, there are ways to minimize costs in a dissolution, even when you have hired an attorney: 

  1. Be pragmatic! Try to remove emotions and think of the dissolution as a business transaction. This will save you a lot of time and money. 
  2. Look for a flexible attorney. Most family law attorneys will require an advance fee deposit and will bill hourly. However, in some cases, attorneys can be flexible with their representation and billing. Is she willing to make a limited appearance to represent you only at a mediation or at one hearing? Does he have a flat fee arrangement arrangements to draft an agreement that you've already made with your spouse? Sometimes these arrangements can save clients thousands of dollars when they hire the attorney only when they need the legal consultation or limited representation. 
  3. Be civil with you ex. Not only will this cut down on the number of nasty letters and e-mails that the attorneys are writing to each other, it also helps establish trust in the new relationship of being a separated couple. This trust element really facilitates agreement during negotiation. 
  4. Be honest with your attorney. Disclose anything that you think your attorney needs to know. Those secrets that you have not disclosed to your attorney will end up needing to be reviewed when they come out. Plus, your attorney's advice may change once he or she has knowledge of the issue. 
  5. Go to mediation prepared. Do not go to mediation until you have a complete knowledge of the assets and liabilities at issue and you have knowledge of the financial issues for both parties. In addition, all parenting evaluations should be complete prior to mediation. Attending mediation unprepared can be frustrating to the mediator and can result in a failed mediation (mediation without settlement) or a prolonged mediation (continue to another date)--either of which will cost you more. 
  6. Be organized. When you drop off documents to your attorney, organize them so that the paralegal is not having to do this for you. Bring in copies so that you are not charged by the law office for copy charges. 
  7. Communicate with your attorney, but find a counselor if you are having emotional issues. If your attorney bills hourly, it is important to remember that every time you call or e-mail the attorney, you are incurring charges. Short e-mails and telephone calls can add up! 
To keep costs low, most clients prefer to settle their case out of court, either at mediation or through negotiation with the opposing side. Typically, when you have hired an attorney, the sooner you and your spouse can agree on the terms of the divorce, the less fees you will have incurred on attorneys and experts. However, not all cases can be settled outside of court. If a case goes to trial, costs increase significantly. 

It is important to at least consult with a competent attorney in a dissolution situation. A divorce can have major financial implications, but it is possible to divorce without breaking the bank. 

Copyright © 2014 Wong Fleming, All rights reserved.

Rachel Luke is a attorney in the Bellevue office of Wong Fleming. Ms. Luke practices family law and represents clients on divorces, custody issues, parenting plans, child support, and more. 

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1 comment:

  1. What great information about how to make the best out an unfortunate situation. I personally really like that you mentioned to make sure to be prepared with meetings. That is something that really seems to be a set back when there are so many different documents and assets coming into one room. Divorce can be hard emotionally, it seems to make sense not to make it worse by adding unnecessary stress. http://www.progressivemediation.net