I sometimes am asked the question: Why is an uncontested divorce so expensive?
The simple, straightforward response is: Because our legislators/law-makers have created laws that require those going through a divorce to make written affirmations or statements in court documents (i.e. pleadings) in order to become divorced.
These court documents can come in boilerplate formats, however, each COUNTY in a particular state may have a different format and require that additional or sometimes fewer documents be filed in their county as compared to other counties.
Furthermore, the required forms not only need to be filled out completely and accurately, but they also have to be in a format that the county is familiar with. In other words, it has to be easily identifiable and in a format that the county clerk’s office and judge’s office is accustomed to seeing.
Even the simplest of divorces require no less than ten (10) documents to be completed by the individual, if representing themselves, or by the attorney that has been hired to assist the client.
Drafting these forms completely and accurately, and in the format that the particular county wants, is time-consuming, and the amount of time that it takes an attorney to complete these forms translates into the amount of money an attorney charges.
Each law firm has its own fee structure. The cost of attorney’s fees in an uncontested divorce typically begins at $500.00 for the simplest of cases, meaning, cases that do not have minor children, or major assets (such as retirements) or debts (such as mortgages) involved.
The uncontested divorce fees increase with the complexity of issues. Issues that increase the cost of attorney’s fees are the division of a retirement account, such as a Pension, IRA or 401k; the drafting and filing of a deed to convey ownership in real estate into one party’s name; and, children.
Contested divorces are different from uncontested divorces. From an attorney’s perspective, an uncontested divorce is not necessarily a divorce that both parties want. Rather, it is a divorce that the parties are going to collaborate on from the beginning, resulting in the execution of the Settlement Agreement without much negotiation or back-and-forth.
Contested divorces are much more expensive than uncontested divorces, because the parties are not able to collaborate at the beginning. The cost of a contested divorce begins at no less than $2000.00 and can easily go beyond that amount depending on the actions of the parties, their attorneys and the assigned judge.
Remember, in any divorce case, there are filing fees that are also paid by the client and that are separate and distinct from attorney’s fees. The filing fee is the cost that the County Clerk’s office charges for the acceptance and processing of the initial complaint filing. These fees are set by the County and can fluctuate at any time with little notice. Currently, filing fees are approximately $207 - $218.50 and are in addition to the attorney’s fees. These filing fees increased a few years back from $82.00 to the amounts listed above.
If you have any questions about the cost of a divorce, whether contested or uncontested, please do not hesitate to call us. Each firm handles its business and its fee structure differently, and it is very important that you know what you are being charged for prior to engaging the law firm in representing you.