Home Vulnerabilities How Much Will My Divorce Cost?

How Much Will My Divorce Cost?

by Blog TrangChu

A new client had just come in to see a famous lawyer.

“Can you tell me how much you charge?” asked the client.

“Of course”, the lawyer replied, “I charge $200 to answer three questions!”

“Well that’s a bit steep, isn’t it?”

“Yes it is”, said the lawyer, “And what’s your third question?”


As expected, I get this question on a daily basis. First of all, I can only quote what I charge. Frequently, in divorce cases, you will need to hire other professionals – such as forensic accountants, appraisers, child custody evaluators, counselors, etc. Even just for my services- here is my answer (which never changes) IT DEPENDS.


One. Lawyers, like most professionals, are high hourly workers. The product I sell is my time. You are paying for my time by the hour, which is charged in increments of 6 minutes. Thus, if you call me for 5 minutes, you are charged .1 (or $30). If your phone call is 7 minutes, that equals .2 (or $60).

Two. Unless it is a flat-fee case (possible if there are no contested issues), the more time I spend on your case, the more expensive it will be. The amount of time I spend on your case depends on you, your spouse, your spouse’s attorney, and the issues involved in your case.

Keeping these two points in mind, I will now refer to my article (found on my website), The Purpose-Driven Divorce, to prepare some price estimates.


Purpose: To get the process started.

Attorney time: 5 -20 hours ($1500 – $6000)

Process Server: $40 – $500

Court Costs: $400

Time Factors: Is the case new, or has it gone through several attorneys and collected 1000 boxes of documents? Is your spouse cooperative, or difficult to the bone, requiring private investigators to stake-out and serve him? Are there children? Are there properties? Have you reached any agreements about anything in your case?


Purpose: To have a sense of peace and order by having temporary orders in writing pending the Judgment.

Attorney time: 10 – 30 hours ($3000 – $9000)

Court Costs: $40 per motion

Time factors: Are you cooperative and return my phone calls? Do you cooperate with my requests for documents? Are you immediately available to meet with me to go over the specifics of your case? Are you able to revise your declarations and promptly return to me? If you have witnesses, what is their availability, and do they cooperate? Is the other side represented? Is their representation well-versed with family law procedure and protocol? Does the court hearing conclude in one day? Does it get continued?


Purpose: In a high-conflict divorce and custody case, to protect the parties and children involved.

Attorney time: 15 – 40 hours ($4500 – $12,000)

Court Costs: $40 per motion

Time Factors: Domestic violence restraining orders are extremely important and take a lot of preparation. Preparation time includes setting up the case, interviewing witnesses, taking statements, preparing declarations, speaking with police officers. Are the court appearances on calendar ,and do they take place without delay? Does the Judge have time on his calendar to hear all witnesses? Do the witnesses appear? Does the other side have witnesses? Have you anticipated all issues that could be raised at the hearing?


Purpose: To Reach a Fair Settlement, and Ensure the Settlement Is Not

Later Overturned Due to Lack of Disclosure.

Attorney Time: 10 – 50 hours ($3000 – $15,000)

Costs of subpoenas, documents: $500 – $1500

Deposition costs: $2000 – $5000

Court Costs: $40 per motion

Time Factors: Discovery is perhaps the most tedious process in a divorce case. If you have little or no assets, there should be very little to work on. However, the more assets or debts you or spouse have, the more time we will need to obtain documents necessary to determine the value for settlement, and the more time we will need to review the received documents. If your spouse is uncooperative, we may need to file court motions in order to obtain necessary documents. The time it takes to complete discovery depends mostly on the cooperation of the parties and the availability of the documents.


Purpose: To Get the Judgment Finalizing your Divorce Case

If case settles:

Attorney Time: 5 – 20 hours ($1500 – $6,000)

Time Factors: How cooperative are the parties?

If case goes to trial:

Attorney Time: 50 – 200 hours ($15,000 – $60,000)

Time Factors: Trial is no joke. You will be paying for the attorney’s time day in, day out. – this includes prep time, trial time, review time, prep time…round the clock. It is not unusual for an attorney to bill 10-15 hours a day for trial. My mentor once had a trial lasting 22 days. I think it helps to think of trial as an hourglass with your money as the sand.

In conclusion, a divorce case can run anywhere from $1820 (uncontested divorce) to hundreds of thousands of dollars. There’s always Britney Spears, who paid over 1 million to her attorneys for her custody case, and Larry Birkhead, who paid over $600,000 to his attorney.

Yes, lawyers are expensive. But if you find the right one, they’re worth it.

On that note, remember this: Marriage is grand and divorce is about twenty grand.

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