One of the most popular if not the most popular questions asked in my consults is “how much is my divorce going to cost me?” I have thought about writing a blog article on this topic for a long time because it is a reasonable question. However, I have held off because there is no easy answer.
In truth "nobody knows for certain." Something I tell my consults is:
- The more you fight, the more it will Cost
- You will probably spend as much as your spouse
- I can give you a fairly accurate guesstimate based on what your telling me. Once we get into the divorce process and see what your ex is doing I will be able to update that estimate.
As with other professionals that you hire such as a mechanic to fix your car or a plumber to fix a leaky faucet you will get an estimate of what the service will cost. However, there are several factors that affect the cost of a divorce and many of them are beyond your control and that of your divorce lawyer. These factors make it impossible for a divorce lawyer to give you more than a guestimate of the total cost of your divorce.
I have seen cases where based on the behavior of the parties it looked like they were going to spend a fortune but they were able to settle the case fairly cheaply. I have also seen cases where the parties had almost nothing and they spent what little they did have and more fighting during the divorce.
On meeting with us, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will provide you with a quote for retaining us to represent you in your divorce. This is based on the specific circumstances of your case as discussed with your attorney. This article will outline a fee range so that you will have a sense of what your divorce might cost.
Agreement or Trial?
There are two ways to get divorced in Texas. Either the parties will reach an agreement or the case will eventually go to trial.
The cost of a divorce in Texas depends on the ability of the parties to reach an agreement. Divorce lawyers, attorneys and staff members bill hourly for the time they spend on your case. I generally like to flow chart a typical divorce cases so people can see where in the process their money gets them.
I typically tell prospective client that many divorce cases follow the following pattern:
- Mediation on Temporary Orders
- Temporary Orders
- Mediation on Final
Each one of those stages may have subparts or require additional hearings in between. At each one of those stages in the divorce process there is a chance to settle the case and not move on to the next stage. If a couple is agreeable and settles early on, then it is a lot cheaper than having to continue down the divorce path.
What I have observed with for each one of the above four stages is that they cost roughly $3,500-$5,500 per stage.
When I was looking for research on the cost of divorce other than my own observations what I found was:
- $15,000 to $20,000 – according to a July 30, 2013 article, in the Huffington Post
- $15,000 to $30,000 - according to a 2006 article on Forbes.com
- $5,000 to $34,000 – according to a nationwide survey conducted by Nolo
These figures would be in line with my own observations of $3,500-$22,000 depending on where the parties ended up in the process.
Divorces Can Be Very Expensive
There all kinds of jokes about divorce. One joke I like is “why does divorce cost so much?” Answer, “Because it’s worth it.”
In a documentary, I watched on the divorce industry called “Divorce Corp” one of the things mentioned in the documentary was that “you can have as much justice as you can afford.” What I took that to mean is you want spend a lot of money on a divorce you can.
I have worked on multiple divorces when the legal fees on both sides were in the hundreds of thousands.
Some famous examples of expensive divorce from popular culture include:
- Neil Diamond and Marcia Murphey at an estimated $150 million
- Steven Spielberg’s and Amy Riving’s Divorce at an estimated $100 million
- Harrison Ford and Melissa Mathison at an estimated $85 million
The Total Cost of a Divorce is a Composite Number
As discussed earlier $3,500 to $22,000 is a wide number for a divorce with a lot of variables. This number is not just the cost of your attorney’s legal fees. The ultimate number will likely be a composite of:
- Attorney Fees
- The cost of every Expert who is called to analyze your case
- Filing Fees
- The Cost of Hiring a Process Server
- Deposition Costs
- If Bank Records or other Documents need to be subpoenaed
Any additional expense related to your case will show up itemized in your bill from your attorney.
Family Law Cases are Billed by the Hour
The cost of your divorce will depend, in part, on the legal counsel you choose to represent your interests in your Texas divorce process. Attorney’s bill not only for their own time, but also for the time spent by other attorneys and their staff members who work on your case.
We also have several attorneys available that we bill out at different hourly rates ranging from $175-$350 and hour. This allows us to pair your case with an attorney that can match your budget.
We also bill out or Paralegals and law clerks at rates ranging from $100-$150 an hour.
It is important to know that in most circumstances that every minute you meet with your attorney or talk on the phone is billable time. This may seem apparent, but it can be hard to remember while you are sitting in your lawyer’s office enjoying a coffee or discussing your case.
Filing Fees and Costs
There are expenses that will need to be paid for in every divorce, and these expenses are charged to you at cost. For example, the initial filing for a divorce is between $300-$400, this cost would be passed on to you at cost.
You can usually expect to pay any filing or service fees that we must pay to the court or process server.
Additionally, you may also incur other fees such as transcript fees, expert witness fees, and mediator’s fees. We generally do not charge for things like photocopies, long distance phone calls, postage, or faxes.
Most divorce lawyers will provide you with an itemized accounting of any expenses, such as the court filing fees, deposition transcripts, and expert witness fees.
The Retainer or Prepaid Legal Fees Down Payment
A retainer is a large payment that you will pay your divorce attorney upfront. In many cases, you can think of a retainer as prepaid legal or a down payment fees from which an attorney will take their hourly rate as it is earned.
As the balance of the retainer drops below a certain point, you will be asked to replenish the retainer. If your case is ongoing or proceeding to trial your retainer may have to be replenished multiple times.
Retainers are often in the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. The exact cost of the retainer will depend on the complexity of your case and the level of experience your attorney possesses.
It is common to see retainers anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000 for a divorce or family law case in Texas. Complex divorce or child custody cases might require a down payment of $25,000 or more.
You will be quoted a retainer at your initial consultation and that retainer amount will be in your fee agreement. At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, our retainer fees work like a deposit for the costs of your divorce, and we will simply bill against your retainer.
As such, any portion of your retainer that is not used will be refunded to you. It should be noted, however, that the retainer is generally not enough to cover the full cost of a divorce, and there is a good chance that you will need to replenish the retainer over the duration of your case.
Divorce Financing and Payment Plans
One thing we do at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is try and work with clients on paying their legal fees by offering payment plans.
An example of how our payment plans work is as follows:
Payment Plans for
Payment Pan for
$5,000 and $1,000 a month
$2,500 and $500 a month
In this example the potential client has three options:
- The potential client can pay the full $10,000 down and have no monthly payments
- Alternatively, they could elect to pay $5,000 down and $1,000 a month or
- They would work with a Junior attorney for $2,500 down and $500 a month
Can I Make my Spouse Pay for my Attorney Fees?
In most cases, you will pay your own legal fees. Generally, unless there is a clear income disparity between you and your spouse, you each will pay your own attorneys’ fees and court cost. However, if there is a disparity in income, courts will sometimes “equalize” attorneys’ fees at the temporary orders hearing.
Examples of a disparity of income include:
- One party in control of the family finances or if
- One party has raided the joint bank account and left the other party with no money
Things that Can Affect the Cost of a Divorce
- Do you have minor children?
- Retirement Plans between Spouses
- Have you or your spouse committed Fault?
- Are you or your spouse financially depend on each other
- Do you have a family owned business or professional Practice?
- Are there substantial Martial Assets?
- The Complexity of the Case
- Going to Trial
The most contentious cases I have seen where people fight the most usually involve children. Even if there are no other contested issues this can greatly increase the cost of the divorce.
For example, if you and your spouse are going to both fight to be the “primary conservator,” this alone can make your divorce expensive. When divorces get contentious regarding children it is not uncommon for a Judge to appoint an attorney called an Amicus to represent the children.
An Amicus attorney doesn’t represent your or your spouse they are an attorney appointed by a Judge to look out for the “best interest of the children.” This attorney is paid for by both you and your spouse. In one case that I worked on in which an Amicus was appointed for our client alone the Amicus cost was an additional $50,000. In most cases I have worked on it has not been nearly that bad but that does illustrate what is possible.
Going to Trial
Some of the most expensive divorce in Texas are the ones that goes to trial. Part of the reason for this is because your case will have probably already been mediated multiple times, gone through the discovery process, and had a Temporary Orders Hearing.
Then on top of those things your case will likely need several additional hours preparing for a courtroom battle.
Filing a for Fault in a Divorce
In Texas when divorce paperwork is filed to start the case there is an option to file either fault or no fault.
In a no-fault divorce in Texas the ground you cite is “insupportability,” which means you no longer wish to be married to your spouse.
However, you can choose to file in Texas for one of the following fault grounds:
- living apart
- confinement in a mental hospital
- Conviction of a felony and
In Texas, you can ask the court to give you the divorce because it was somebody's fault. If fault is proven then when a court gives a divorce for "grounds," a court may give more of the community property to the "innocent" spouse.
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Other Articles you may be interested:
- How do family law attorneys in Texas bill their clients?
- Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
- Reduce stress and costs in a divorce by mediating your case
- How to budget for a cost friendly divorce in Texas
- Cost Cutting Tips for your Texas Divorce
- Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
- How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
- How am I going to Pay for My Texas Divorce?
- 8 Tips for Reducing the Cost of a Divorce in Texas
- $300 Divorce Cost a Man $100,000 in Texas
- The Cheap and Easy, Online Divorce Is Usually Anything But...
- Low cost and affordable divorces, attorneys, websites and divorce Costs in Texas
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.