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How Much Will it Cost to Get Divorced?

by Ethan McRae

The first question for family law attorneys is often “How much is this divorce going to cost?”. How much does a divorce cost in Arizona? As frustrating as it may be to hear, the cost of a divorce largely depends on the case. The complexity of the case is going to be determined by how many hours the lawyers have to work to achieve a successful outcome. In a normal divorce case, divorce attorneys usually require a retainer. A retainer is money that is paid to the attorney up front that the attorney will bill hourly as they work on the case. Retainers can range from $3,500 to a staggering $15,000 for high profile divorces. The rate at which attorneys bill the retainer can range from $200 to $400 an hour. 

The difference amounts that attorneys charge largely depends on their experience and their individual abilities. Picking a lawyer will all depend on the kind of experience that you need for your case. If you have a case where there’s a lot on the line, you may want to find an experienced attorney where that extra amount will be worth it. Make sure that you do your own due diligence in searching around and making sure that you find the attorney that is your style and that you can trust. 

Do You Always need a Lawyer to Get Divorced?

The need for a divorce does not always mean a lawyer is necessary. I have seen many people marry, only to later discover serious problems in their relationship. Some couples are able to negotiate the terms together in a civil way, and they handle the paperwork on their own. Although these divorces are simple, the situation is still very stressful and difficult.

The heartbreaking part of divorce is the emotional trauma while negotiating with an unwilling or abusive spouse. There are also many instances where spouses do not want to share assets or they want to leave the other destitute. If the divorce is complicated, or even if it is more stressful than you can handle, the cost of an attorney is worth the investment. What people get with an honest attorney is peace of mind. With a good attorney in your corner, you will know that you are well represented and that you are doing everything within your power to start your new life while keeping yourself safe. 

Divorce attorneys are experts at containing the messiest of situations quickly and efficiently. When you do not have attorneys involved, problems can persist for months and even years. If you get good attorneys that can land good agreements and draft good documents, they will set you up to escape your problems quickly rather than having these issues linger or resurface down the road. Attorneys can protect you from dangerous environments by drafting restraining orders, and they can protect your children by fighting for your parental rights in court. Family law is heart-wrenching for those who have to be involved. You are either dealing with the breakdown of a relationship, trying to co-parent with ex-spouses, keep what is rightfully yours, or escape abuse. Attorneys can help make those situations as simple as possible and handle them effectively. 

If I need an Attorney, How do I keep the Costs Down?

The most effective thing that you can do to keep your divorce costs down is to negotiate as much as you can with your spouse. If that is not possible, you can start by thinking of ways to reduce the hours that the attorney has to spend on your case. Attorneys have to charge for every minute that they spend for you, whether that is answering emails, talking on the phone, meeting with you in person, or even driving to court.  Prepared and up-front communication with the attorney at the beginning is extremely helpful. Think of all of the documents that they may use during the case, and organize them before your initial consultation. Financial records, bank statements, 401k records, marriage license and certificates, titles, and even videos or evidence. If you have those papers ready to go from day one, it will save a lot of time and effort on the attorney’s part and help keep the costs down. 

What Happens if my retainer is not Enough?

Most normal divorce proceedings fall somewhere within the initial retainer cost. Sometimes the attorney may not need the full retainer, and he will reimburse you the amount that was not used. This is usually the case with simple matters that are cut and dry and go according to plan. It all comes down to how much time and effort that the attorneys have to put in.

In complex cases where there are going to be many negotiations, it is very likely that the retainer will not be enough to cover the costs of the divorce. In a complex divorce war, the cost might go beyond 4 times the amount of the original retainer. Usually, these cases involve a large number of assets where there is more at stake. 

I Don’t Know Where Start!

If you cannot afford a lawyer, or if you are not sure if it is worth the money, it may be difficult to know where to begin. The best thing that you can do is to schedule a one-time consultation with an attorney that you can trust. Most attorneys offer an hour consultation to walk you through everything that is going to need to happen during the divorce. It is a great starting place if you do not intend on retaining the attorney for the long haul. 

At Riggs Ellsworth & Porter, we are more than happy to answer all of your questions and point you in the right direction. We can guide you to the websites to file your own papers, and give you an overall place to start. We very well may advise you to retain an attorney, especially if the case includes custody issues or a division of assets. 

If you’re looking for help in any way, and need that extra edge to get out of a bad situation, just going in to see an attorney is more than worth it and is well worth your time.

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