One of the most significant roadblocks that many of you may have relates to the cost of a divorce. You may have questions about how much a divorce may cost and whether it is even something that you can realistically pay for. I know that many clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan share these concerns. The difference is that our clients have been able to overcome their concerns and file a case. You are rightfully concerned about the costs of a divorce to the point where you are still trying to collect information about the true costs of a divorce and more important what they may be for your divorce.
As with most things associated with complex processes, you will never really know how much a divorce is going to cost in your case until you file the divorce. You know how much it will cost to pay for a steak dinner because the restaurant’s prices are listed online. You can add up your entrée, your appetizer, drinks, etc., and have an exact figure to go by. A divorce is not that simple. The costs of a divorce depend upon so many factors that not even the attorney you ultimately hire to represent you in the divorce will be able to tell you how much the divorce is going to cost.
With that said, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understand that you want to minimize the costs of your divorce wherever possible. Life in general is expensive right now. When you must worry about all your other bills and expenses increasing in cost the last thing you want to pay more money for is a divorce. We get it. So, we are going to share our perspective with you regarding what the costs of your divorce may look like as well as the factors that impact the costs of a divorce in Texas.
As we mentioned a moment ago, the best way for you to gain a solid understanding of the costs of your divorce would be to reach out and speak with one of the experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys have been serving our community in southeast Texas for many years and have helped people from all walks of life obtain divorces. Our experience allows us to provide some perspective to people just like you who may be wondering about the costs of a divorce. A free-of-charge consultation is available with one of our licensed family law attorneys six days a week in person at one of our three Houston area locations, over the phone, and via video.
Are there any rules of thumb to go by when it comes to a price of a divorce?
The two rules of thumb that I think you can rely upon when you are trying to estimate the costs of a divorce are: 1) children make divorce more expensive and 2) so does a contested divorce. Let’s explore both realities in more detail.
If you have children under the age of 18 then you can prepare for a longer divorce, all things being equal. There is so much to work out with children in a divorce that it is difficult to negotiate through these issues quickly and therefore reduce and minimize the costs of a divorce. For the most part, you can rest assured that the issues of your children will take up most of your attention in the divorce. Child support, child custody, conservatorship, possession, and access- the list goes on and on as far as the major issues of a divorce that relate to children. You and your spouse will need to sort through these issues to resolve your case. No matter how much negotiation you engage in there is always something that could take up your attention during the divorce. Plan on issues related to your children adding to the overall time and dollar investment that you need to make when it comes to a divorce.
The other factor that impacts the overall costs of divorce has to do with the necessary time investment. Time is money, the old saying goes. Frequently, however, that is exactly how a divorce shapes up. The more time that you spend in a divorce the more money the case will cost. The reason for this is that family law attorneys bill by the hour. The more hours spent in a case, the more hours worked by your attorney and the more your divorce will cost. This is a relatively primitive way of estimating the costs of a divorce, but it is nonetheless true in most even divorces,
An uncontested divorce is one where you and your spouse were able to settle the issues of your case without needing to go into the more time-consuming aspects that we have already discussed. Other factors are eliminated when you consider an uncontested divorce. For example, from the outset of a divorce, you have costs associated with serving your spouse with notice of the divorce. This means hiring a process server and then the time spent with your attorney having to communicate with this person. All of this is done simply to notify your spouse that you have filed for divorce. You cannot simply email or text your spouse with “notice” of the divorce. He or she has a right to be provided personal service of the divorce papers.
On the other hand, if your divorce is uncontested then this means that he or she is likely to be amenable to signing a waiver of service. A waiver of service allows you to bypass the personal service on your spouse. Your spouse would sign the waiver of service in front of a notary. The waiver states that he or she understands that they have a right to be served personally with notice of the divorce but that this right of theirs is being waived. This waiver would be signed in front of a notary and then filed with the rest of your divorce papers. By doing so, your spouse can proceed into the divorce without having to wait for you to serve him or her. By the same token, you can save some money on the whole process by not having to hire a process server, not having to work with your attorney in case your spouse cannot be located, and you are not losing income by having to spend more time handling the divorce.
More on child custody components to the cost of a divorce
There is a possibility that you and your spouse have a lot in common with your beliefs regarding your children. However, if the two of you have some work to do as far as resolving issues related to your children, then you must either do so in a hearing, in mediation, or through negotiation with your spouse. All these things cost money. Here is how you can expect each of these situations can increase the costs of divorce.
A hearing, like a temporary order hearing, can cost a substantial amount of money in comparison to other areas of your case. Consider that your attorney will be spending a day or even two days with you at the courthouse. Your attorney will be billing you at their hourly billing rate for the entirety of that. It is not uncommon for the temporary order hearing to represent most of the costs associated with a divorce.
Mediation is a stage of a case where you attempt to avoid having to go through a temporary order hearing. You and your spouse will agree on a family law mediator whose office you will go to for mediation. The mediator will put you and your attorney in one room and your spouse and their attorney in another. You and your spouse will spend mediation making settlement offers and negotiating back and forth. The mediator is a family law attorney in most cases so they can not only relay settlement offers back and forth but can also give some perspective as to how a judge may consider the situation.
At the end of mediation, the mediator will take any settlements that you and your spouse arrived at and compile them into a document known as a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA). The MSA will contain the totality of your settlements. For that reason, you and your attorney will need to review the document closely before signing to confirm that the document contains what it is supposed to. The MSA is not a final document. You cannot file the MSA in place of temporary orders. Rather, your attorney will use the MSA as a guide to draft temporary orders.
Even a full day of mediation usually is less expensive than needing to attend a temporary order hearing. You will pay a relatively small amount of money to the mediator but keep in mind that you will have your spouse’s attention and your attorneys for the entirety of the day. You can kill two birds with one stone by discussing your negotiation strategy, fine-tuning arguments about any subject important to your case, and planning for the end stages of your case. In a temporary order hearing all you can do is focus your attorney on the hearing. In mediation, you can multitask to a great extent.
How civil can you and your spouse be towards one another in the divorce?
The irony of a divorce is that it is a civil case. Being “civil” with one another may not be something that you and your spouse are all that happy to do at this moment. You are getting a divorce, after all. Spouses that are getting a divorce but can put aside their differences and work together stand to achieve a great deal more in a divorce. This is not to say that your divorce will be simple and painless if you and your spouse can work together. However, spouses that can engage in negotiation decrease the costs associated with their case.
This is true for several reasons. For one, the cases that end up going to court are ones where the issues are extremely complex, where the spouses are unable or unwilling to work together to find solutions, or both. I don’t know your exact circumstances, but I can tell you that whatever issues you are facing in the divorce the case will not magically become more inexpensive if you and your spouse never speak to one another or through your attorneys during the case.
Rather, the more prepared the two of you are to work side by side on these issues the better off you will be. You can avoid your attorneys having to do all the negotiation for you. The less the lawyers are used the more inexpensive your case tends to be. You can your spouse does not have to go through your attorneys to communicate settlement offers. The two of you can meet up, discuss the case, and work out issues on your own. This can be to the advantage of your case but also your pocketbook. Do not underestimate the importance of being able to set aside differences and talk to your spouse. There is almost no downside to your doing so.
Have you ever assumed something about someone that turned out to not be true? I think we all are guilty of doing this at a time or two in our lives. This happens a lot in divorce. You assume your spouse and the next thing you know you can never see things from their angle or point of you during the divorce. This ends any reasonable expectation of being able to negotiate with him or her. This is where divorces go from being expensive to expensive at the drop of a hat.
Rather than see your divorce go through this type of progression I would recommend that you instead take advantage of the time and opportunity you must negotiate and talk directly with your spouse. It is not inconceivable that the two of you could work out a conclusion to your divorce between yourselves in one of these informal settlement negotiation sessions. From there, all you would need to do is attend a quick mediation, sign off on the mediated settlement agreement and then count all the money you’ve saved by not spending all of your time fighting over the different areas of your case.
What about child support and alimony?
Above and beyond the costs of the divorce case itself you should also concern yourself with what additional costs will be necessary in the future when it comes to your case. Moving forward many of those costs will be borne in the areas of spousal maintenance, contractual alimony, or child support for many of you. While not every person reading this blog post will have costs like these to concern themselves with, many of you will need to focus on these subjects. Let’s conclude today’s article by summarizing these points about the overall costs of your divorce.
Child support is paid by the non-primary conservator parent to the primary conservator to better even out the costs borne by each party. The possessory conservator spends less time with the kids than the primary conservator so to make things more even he or she will pay child support. If you have a large income or a lot of kids, then you will pay more in child support. You can look to the Texas Family Code for the specifics on child support guidelines. This is a subject that you should pay attention to especially if you have a child with special needs.
Next, spousal maintenance is a court-ordered form of post-divorce spousal support. If your spouse provides evidence to a judge showing that he or she is unable to pay their bills without assistance, then the onus will be on you to assist if you have been married for ten years or longer. No more than 25% of your monthly income can be paid for spousal maintenance. Additionally, your spouse must show that he or she is unable to meet their minimum reasonable needs, not unable to live the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.
Finally, contractual alimony is a form of post-divorce spousal support that can be agreed upon by you and your spouse before a divorce trial. The rules of spousal maintenance do not apply to contractual alimony. The length of your marriage does not determine whether contractual alimony can be paid. Whatever the two of you agree to can be implemented through your Final Decree of Divorce. You should consider the needs of your spouse and the likelihood that a judge would order you to pay spousal maintenance in a trial before agreeing to contractual alimony.
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