How Much Does Divorce Cost?
There’s a lot to worry about when you are going through a divorce. The pain of the loss of the relationship. The anxiety relating to how your children will cope with the separation. Thinking about what you will do afterward the divorce is finalized and wondering how much does divorce cost. The conventional wisdom is that divorces can be expensive. But why? What are the expenses other than lawyer fees and what do divorce lawyers charge?
Los Angeles Divorce attorneys charge either an hourly fee for the time spent on the case or less commonly a flat fee for services. The charges vary. The factors which influence the cost are the complexity of the divorce (itself a function of the assets of the spouses and whether there are child support and child custody problems), the divorce location, and whether the divorce is collaborative or adversarial.
Divorce attorneys in Los Angeles usually charge anywhere between $400 – $700 an hour if they take the case on a traditional hourly basis. Some experienced Los Angeles divorce attorneys are also willing to quote a flat rate for particular services. For example to prepare the petition for dissolution and related documents on an uncontested divorce can usually be done for a flat fee which is quoted before work begins. Some clients prefer using the flat rate approach because they can watch their expenses more closely and one knows up front what each procedure will cost.
What are some other costs, besides attorney’s fees that divorcing parties typically incur?
The parties must pay court fees—filing fees for petitions, responses and various motions. These fees are set by law and the fees are the same throughout California. If there are child custody disputes to be worked out during the divorce, experts such as psychologists, education therapists may be retained to evaluate the children and determine what is best for them with respect to custody and visitation schedules. If a spouse is self employed or owns a business then economic experts such as accountants and business evaluators may be required. If the marital estate—the property the couple owns together is complex then experts may be required to ensure that the spouses receive appropriate shares of the property they own together.
If One Spouse Cannot Pay For An Attorney The Other Spouse May Be Ordered To Pay Some Or All Of The Other Spouses Fees and Costs
In cases where one spouse cannot afford counsel the court may order the spouse with assets to pay some or all of his or her fees. If one spouse made little to no money the entire time of the marriage, and the other was made all or substantially more income, a judge will often grant a motion requesting attorneys’ fees be paid by the financially capable spouse. In California, Family Law Code Section 2030 gives the court the power to order one spouse to pay all or a portion of the attorney’s fees and costs of the other. Such orders are based upon “the respective incomes and needs of the parties” and “any factors affecting the parties’ respective abilities to pay.”
A party must file paper with the court (called a Motion or an Order to Show Cause) requesting that the other spouse pay some or all the fees. A court hearing on the matter is required and the requesting party must file a proper motion with supporting documents that contain the pertinent information to potentially succeed. The other spouse may oppose the motion and must receive proper notice of the motion for fees.
You often hear that the only “winners” in a divorce are the lawyers. The point being that the parties spend a great deal on lawyers’ fees without getting much in return. While it is true that some divorce attorneys in Los Angeles attempt to drive up the fees, more commonly the anger, frustration, and sense of betrayal felt by one or both spouses is the real force behind the high fees. Good attorneys should work to obtain the best outcome for their client. Clients must choose their attorney with care to ensure that he or she will not be afraid to counsel the client against taking steps that on balance will do nothing but drive up the costs of the divorce. If the spouses can work together the costs for a divorce can be quite modest.
LA Divorce Lawyers will work to ensure you get the best possible result, and we will do it economically. Our interests always are in line with our clients. We will do everything necessary for your case and nothing that is unnecessary. Even in situations where our client’s fees are paid by the opposing party we work efficiently and economically.
In the state of California and in Los Angeles County specifically, you can file for divorce without the help of a Los Angeles divorce attorney. Legally speaking, you are allowed to represent yourself.
In most cases, unless the divorce is uncontested and very amicable, it is not a good idea to represent yourself. Even when things seem amicable, it still may not be wise to represent yourself, here’s why…
Most divorces involve some level of emotion and pain, and that can impact your ability to think clearly and make the best decisions. If you and your spouse have patterns of communicating and working things out, even as the marriage is ending it can be hard to break these patterns. Negotiating terms that are fair can be hard given the dynamics of your relationship and history. Hiring a divorce attorney introduces a clear-headed, experienced advocate for you. The divorce attorney’s job is to ensure you understand your options and can choose what is best. If your spouse has a controlling personality or his or her lawyer seeks an unfair advantage your divorce lawyer will protect your interests.
If the divorce is not amicable or if there is a child custody dispute, if there is any history of violence in the relationship, or disputes about the property the couple owns together then getting the help of a divorce lawyer is the only logical solution In any of those situations, emotions will be heightened and you are not going to be well enough equipped to figure out what is best for you and argue for it.
The question “why hire a divorce lawyer” can be answered best by these key points:
- If you are separated from your spouse or merely contemplating a divorce and you believe your spouse’s anger are so intense that the spouse’s goal is to use the legal system to inflict pain on you, you must have representation.
- Los Angeles Divorce lawyers have years of education and experience that have taught them to consider all of the details that you almost certainly will not consider. For example the tax ramifications of support payments and property division.
There are a fairly large number of filings that must be made even in uncontested divorces. You can do this yourself, but you must be willing to educate yourself on what needs doing and take the time to do it properly. Not only is it time consuming but it’s crucial that it be error-free. The reason is that the courts are underfunded and have too many cases. Errors will result in long delays. Having someone experienced at preparing the documents may seem like a minor advantage but it saves not only time, it also saves stress.
If there are children you will likely need help with child support and custody issues. The Child Support Guideline is actually a mandatory statewide algebraic formula of such complexity that the courts and most lawyers use a computer program to calculate it. During a dissolution. if the parents cannot agree on a child custody arrangement, the court may order mediation through Family Court Services. If mediation fails, the judge will decide custody issues in a court hearing. At any stage in this process, it is important to have the advice or representation of an experienced divorce attorney to help you obtain the custody and visitation you want with your children. A Divorce lawyer’s guidance can be invaluable. For example in all counties except Los Angeles and Orange the mediator or evaluator will recommend a child custody plan to the judge if the parties cannot agree. The judge almost invariably accepts the recommendation of the mediator. This means that things stated during court ordered mediation over custody issues are not confidential. Moreover, if anything you say offends the mediator or if you take a position she finds unreasonable the recommendation will likely be adverse to you.
- Similarly, if spousal support and division of property are issues in your marriage the laws are complex. A divorce attorney can help you understand your rights and ensure you receive the property or support to which you are legally entitled, or agree to a lesser amount if you believe this will adequately meet your needs and it is what you desire.
- Laws in California change often, sometimes yearly. Having a divorce lawyer working for you will ensure that all current laws are known and properly addressed.
- If your spouse is getting legal counsel, you do not want to be overpowered by their divorce attorney and you need your own representation.
If you live in Los Angeles County and need a Los Angeles divorce lawyer, I have the knowledge and experience needed to help guide you through your divorce with as little stress as possible. I have been a Los Angeles divorce attorney for 20 years and I’m prepared to fight for you.