Many people are concerned with how much they will be spending to get a divorce but are not quick to consider just how much work will go into a divorce. Divorces can be very expensive, but they are also very worth it, and best explained by the saying “you can have as much justice as you can afford.”
There is no “fixed amount” on how much your divorce will cost you, and you should beware of any lawyer claiming they can do your entire divorce on a fixed amount. This is because there are so many factors that can be included in a divorce, and there are no two same divorces ever. These costs can include attorneys’ fees, expert costs, filing fees, process server fees, deposition costs, subpoena fees, mediation costs, etc. Even greater costs can be incurred if parties do not reach a settlement and go to trial. However, most cases will settle out before trial.
To begin, most parties believe their divorce will be uncontested if there are no children or community property involved, or because the opposing party has assured them it will be uncontested. However, most cases will become contested at some point, and contested divorces can become very expensive. Spouses will argue over everything from spousal support, children, even family pets. This is because most family law cases are billed by the hour and they include any other attorney or staff’s hours that have done work on your case. It isn’t until most people receive that first invoice that they will buckle down and try to settle the differences.
To begin it is important to know that money earned during the marriage is considered the community income of the spouses, and even if one party cannot access their rights to those funds, that party can request the Court order the other party to be responsible for their attorney fees. Usually, in a divorce, both parties are responsible for paying their legal fees and court costs.
However, there are a few ways these fees and costs can be offset during the divorce proceeding because in Texas attorney fees are one of the factors a court can consider in making a “just and right” division of the community property. Ordering attorney fees is typically done through a party’s request for interim attorney fees. Deciding if a party gets awarded interim attorney fees is decided at a Temporary Orders Hearing. Some considerable factors may be considered when ordering a party to pay the opposing party’s attorney fees.
A disparity of income is one of the most common reasons a party might request for attorney fees. In this scenario, one party has greater earning power over the other party, which makes it harder for the lower earning party to pay for representation in their divorce proceeding. Similarly, there are a lot of parties that become stay-at-homes during the marriage. Whether it is caring for the family home or children, staying home has hindered their earning abilities.
Next, but infrequently, a court will order that one party’s attorney fees be paid for directly from the community estate in advance. Typically, any division of community property comes at the end of a divorce, but an exception can be made in this instance. You can also file a motion with the court, to sell assets to help pay for any legal fees you have incurred.
Lastly, one-way attorney fees can be awarded during a divorce that comes in the form of sanctions. Sanctions can be imposed as a penalty for bad behavior by the opposing party or his attorney. Family law courts are persistent in requiring parties to cooperate in settling their differences. As a result, bad behavior can rack up more attorney’s fees for both parties and can prolong the divorce proceeding, and wastes court time and resources. Examples of behavior that can lead to sanctions being imposed on you include; filing multiple motions (even about the smallest of matters), not complying with the courts orders, withholding requested information from the other party and/or their attorney, and failing to appear for scheduled court hearing or mediations.
Understanding the factors that may apply to your situation can give you some insight if you think you may not be able to afford your legal expenses and court costs. However, there are a few things a person can do to help keep their attorney fees down.
For starters, educate yourself about the Texas divorce proceeding itself and how assets and debts can be divided is important to know. The more you know about Texas divorce related issues, the less you will pay to try to have an attorney educate you. There are many different sources you can turn to like books and the internet to help educate you. Knowing how the proceeding works will help you efficiently consult with your attorney and negotiate with your spouse. Regarding finances, if you are currently not in control of them it would be wise to begin getting a jump on obtaining a copy of your credit report, hiring appraisers for personal and real property, and investigating into all your spouse’s accounts.
Next, it would be wise to refrain from the escalating conflict in the divorce. Going to court should be your last option because it is expensive. Instead, consider going to mediation or arbitration to spare yourself the time and money of preparing for any court hearings, and a trial. You may win a trial, but at deep cost, which is why most divorce cases will settle out before a trial. Therefore, it is wise to narrow the disagreements and control your emotions because most times people will act on their emotions in an attempt to make their spouse suffer. All they end up with instead are higher legal fees and court costs.
It is also important that you take the advice of your attorney seriously. Your attorney is skilled and knowledgeable about what they are licensed in, and their advice should be deeply considered. There are too many times clients will intend to do something their way which only ever ends in more fees. Also, take advantage of your attorney’s paralegal or support staff. They charge lower hourly rates in comparison to your attorney, and they more than likely can answer case related questions. It is also good to try to avoid any unnecessary long telephone calls or meetings unless necessary. Often clients will come in with no good reason for doing so, keeping your lawyer fees can easily be done through this manner. Lastly, stay on top of your game by bringing in any requested documents to your attorney when they are requested. This can save valuable time and money for you, so keeping up with your “homework” as a client is just as important.
Understanding how to keep legal costs down and knowing some of the factors that may lead you to request for interim attorney fees are important to know how you will afford a divorce. A divorce is not easy and can be far from affordable, so these few tips may help you achieve the outcome you seek.