The question that is on every spouse’s mind who is considering filing for divorce is how much the divorce will cost him or her. This is a reasonable concern to have, of course. You are taking a huge leap by starting a divorce and separating legally from your spouse. There are emotional and financial costs to a divorce and there are also ways that can benefit from a divorce. Your job as a consumer is to get an accurate idea of how much the process will cost you and how you can prepare for those costs.
As a person who has likely never gone through a divorce before you would have little reason to know how much a divorce should end up costing you. There are so many moving pieces in a divorce case- attorney’s fees, court costs, costs associated with filing documents, mediation fees, etc.- that if you don’t do your homework and don’t ask questions about this subject you will only be able to guess as to how much money you will need to invest in this process.
That is where our office comes in. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan would like to help get you started by providing you with an overview of costs associated with divorce in Texas. While we cannot tell you exactly how much your divorce will cost, I will do my best today to point out to you the various areas of your divorce case and how each could impact the bottom line. If you have questions about any area that we end up discussing you can always contact our office to speak with one of our attorneys at no cost to you.
Speak to an attorney in person to figure out costs
You can spend all day and all night on the internet researching what other people can tell you about the costs of a divorce in Texas. However, those opinions are based on the “average” divorce case that an attorney will encounter. As I’m sure you would tell me, there is nothing average about your family. Your case will need to be scrutinized closely before any attorney can supply you with an estimate about what the case will ultimately cost.
With that in mind, you need to speak to an attorney in person in order to get a good idea about what your divorce will end up costing you. I tell clients and potential clients alike that a divorce is a short-term investment in your long term future. That’s not to say that the investment won’t be substantial. That’s also not to say that the investment will be relatively small. It all depends on you, your spouse, your kids and the circumstances of your case.
We don’t have the space in this blog, and I don’t think anyone’s attention span is long enough for me to walk through every single factor in a divorce and tell you how each impacts the bottom line cost of your case. However, what you can do is seek out attorneys that offer free of charge consultations (like those offered by the Law Office of Bryan Fagan) in order to find out more about what you can expect to pay for a divorce.
The more you agree with your spouse about, the less your divorce will cost (usually)
One broad subject that will touch on that relates to the cost of divorces in Texas is the degree to which you see eye to eye with your spouse about your case. It is obvious that if you are going through a divorce that there is quite a bit that you and your spouse do not agree about. I get that. However, you and your spouse have the ability to work together as much as possible to see to it that your divorce results in a fair outcome for both of you- and for your kids. It takes some patience but I have seen many (if not most) spouses work together on divorces and the end result is usually a good one for each person.
Working together with your spouse as much as possible will also help you keep the costs of your case to a minimum. Animosity and fighting leads directly to the courthouse. If you plan on fighting tooth and nail with your spouse you should have a very good reason for doing so. If you plan on fighting tooth and nail for no other reason than your “principles” then you are in for a long and more expensive divorce than may be necessary.
Here is why a longer and more difficult divorce will end up costing you more money than a short and peaceful divorce. Family law attorneys bill by the hour (for the most part). Initially, you will pay your attorney a retainer. This sum of money (to be determined by your attorney based the circumstances of your case) is to be paid to your attorney at the outset of your relationship with him or her. It retains their services for you, for as long as your case shall proceed.
Family law attorneys will bill you by the hour after that for any work done on your case. You can think of the money you pay your attorney like money that you deposit into your bank account. Each time your attorney does anything on your case- sends an email, reviews a document, drafts a document, speaks to you on the phone, negotiates with opposing counsel on some aspect of your case- imagine that he or she inserts a debit card into the ATM and pulls money out of your checking account to pay for that service provided.
The more work that has to be done on your case means the more that the attorney will need to pull out that debit card and take money out of the ATM. Fighting with your spouse means that you will likely be spending more time in the courtroom. Not only do you pay for every minute that you spend in court related to your case, but you will also spend money on all of the documents that your attorney has to draft and review prior to your court appearance. As you can already tell, these costs compound upon one another.
If you can communicate with your spouse, that removes a lot of the burden for your attorney to do so. You can actually do quite a bit of the work associated with negotiating and settling your divorce without the assistance of your attorney. The attorney can help guide you in negotiations, but the big picture items can be worked on by you and your spouse without your attorneys needing to be billed to do so.
Uncontested divorces can minimize the costs of divorce even further
An uncontested divorce is tough to achieve but it may be possible for you and your spouse. This type of divorce is among the least expensive options for you to take advantage of. However, due to the circumstances of your case you may not be able to choose to go down this route. Let’s take a look at what an uncontested divorce so that you can determine whether or not it matches up with your particular case.
An uncontested divorce means that, essentially, you and your spouse have no large issues to debate and generally have little in the way of property to fight over. If you have no children under the age of 18 together, are not asking the other one spouse to pay alimony or spousal maintenance and have no assets/debts to divide then you may qualify for an uncontested divorce.
As you have probably already concluded, it is a narrow gate to enter if you want an uncontested divorce in Texas. Odds are that you may quality for an uncontested divorce, but the general principles that I have already discussed with you almost certainly will. If you can make your case as uncontested as possible then your costs will not add up as quickly as other divorces where spouses constantly fight with one another.
If you have children with your spouse who are under the age of 18 then you cannot have an official uncontested divorce. That is because the sheer number of issues in play when it comes to your children- child custody, visitation, possession, access, child support and health care coverage- make it so that there are a lot of opportunities for you and your spouse to disagree with another. Disagreements are the hallmark of a contested divorce. An uncontested football game would be one where the players sit in a circle and throw the ball around instead of tacking one another.
Not being forthcoming with information and documentation means an increase in the costs of divorce
In some divorces you cannot avoid having to go through a process called discovery. Discovery is a situation where you and your spouse will send requests to the other for information, documentation and answers to questions associated with your case. Typically the information, documents and answers that you are seeking are due within 30 days of the request having been sent to you.
This information will be used by your spouse to learn more about your case and to prepare for a potential trial. It takes a great deal of time to collect and organize information and documents that need to be sent over to your spouse’s attorney. Someone has to offer answers/responses to questions contained in the discovery requests or supply objections. That alone takes a great deal of time.
You should already be getting the idea that discovery equals costs for you. In many divorces you can either avoid the need for discovery by limiting the issues that are being debated. Working with your spouse to minimize disagreements in advance of divorce is a great way to avoid the costs of discovery. Again, you may need to be the bigger person to get this done but the reward is well worth it.
However, even if you cannot avoid the costs associated with discovery you can at least do your best to minimize those costs. For example, before your case even begins you can start to collect financial information that may be relevant in your case: tax returns from the past few years, bank account statements, retirement plan statements, mortgages, loan information, etc. This is the type of documentation that will be requested in discovery. Ask your attorney early on what you can do to help him or her organize items like this. By collecting documents and information that are likely to be relevant before your divorce even begins you can save a lot of money.
So what will an average divorce end up costing you when it is all said and done?
The basic fee structure that I discussed earlier with you regarding the payment of a retainer applies pretty much across the board for family law attorneys. The specific costs of a retainer can vary depending on the attorney you visit. Look at the location where your attorney offices, how nice their furniture is and how many years he or she has practiced. All of these factors have a positive correlation to cost.
Attorneys will typically charge you a monthly payment as well to make sure that you are paying them on a consistent basis. Remember if the need arises to take the debit card to your ATM, the lawyer needs to know that there is money there in order so that work can be done. So, you are looking at a retainer, monthly payments the possibility of a second retainer to be paid in the event that your case proceeds to a trial. The time needed to prepare for and try a case results in a great deal of cost for the attorney. That cost will be passed on to you.
However, without specific knowledge of your facts and circumstances I couldn’t even begin to guess how much your divorce would cost. What I can tell you is that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan has competitive fees for our clients and we offer the best level of experience, compassion and aggressive advocacy of any law office in southeast Texas. Please conctact us today in order to set up a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys. You can speak to an attorney about your case and get a good estimate about how much your Texas divorce could end up costing you.