Divorce Legal Fees

Divorce is Expensive

You are correct in being concerned about the cost of your divorce; divorce is an expensive proposition, particularly if your case needs to go to court.

Estimates are Important

In every case, I try to provide an estimate as to the costs involved for each step of the way. However, each case is different, and it is impossible to provide more than general information about the costs of a divorce. Also, until I know what your spouse has to say, I can’t do more than provide general ballpark figures.

Hard Dollar Figures

Even if a case does not go to court, your legal fees can easily reach the $10,000 mark. A case that goes to court will cost you at least $10,000; more realistically it will cost at least $20,000 if it does not go to trial. If your case goes to trial, your costs could be at least $50,000. So, going to court is not a decision to be made lightly. Normally, after a month or so, you and your lawyer will have a good idea as to whether your case can be resolved amicably or whether going to court is necessary.

Best Ways to Save Legal Fees

The best way to keep your legal fees down is to do as much of the work as you can yourself, and to try to resolve your case amicably. The best way of doing this is as follows. When you initially separate, you should meet with a divorce lawyer to learn what your legal rights and obligations are. Then, go to divorce mediation with your spouse and try to resolve as much (or all) of the issues in your case. Your lawyer can help you on an as needed basis as questions or issues arise. Once you and your spouse have reached an agreement, get the mediator the draft the separation agreement, then return to your lawyer for independent legal advice on the agreement. By doing this, you have succeeded at using a lawyer as little as possible, and keeping your divorce as amicable as possible.

How Do I Settle Things Amicably?

Approaching your case in a business-like manner is the best way to go. I know it’s hard because your spouse has probably done many nasty things to you, and you’re upset. If you’re not ready to deal with things in a business-like manner, often things can wait until tensions have cooled down between you and your spouse. And if you just don’t think you can act in a business-like manner, re-read the “Hard Dollar Figures” section and calculate how hard you worked to save that $50,000.

Paying Your Spouse’s Legal Fees

Another issue is whether you’ll be required to pay any of your spouse’s legal fees. If your case goes to court, you run the risk of this happening. In our legal system, we have a “loser pays” rule – if you are unsuccessful at any step of the case, you may find yourself paying for a portion of your spouse’s legal fees for that step. The best way to protect yourself against this is to be reasonable at every step of the way.

You Won’t Get It All

However, note that even if you win, your legal fees will not be reimbursed in full by your spouse. Typically, recovery of legal fees is one-half to two-thirds of actual costs.

Offer to Settle

As well, you can further protect yourself against paying your spouse’s fees by making an “offer to settle.” This sets out in formal legal terms how you are willing to settle your case or the step in your case. If you beat this offer in court, your spouse will be required to pay a very high percentage of your legal fees from the date you made the offer (the rules say “full recovery” but unfortunately, this is often reduced).

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If you are considering divorce -- or have already made your decision -- you're invited to email me on my contact form. I'll explain how you can protect your legal rights, reduce the expense of divorce, and protect your children from undue emotional stress.