I sometimes am asked the question: Why is an uncontested divorce so expensive?
The simple, straight-forward 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, they 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
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 their own fee structure. The cost of attorney’s
fees in an uncontested divorce typically begin 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;
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 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 their
business and their 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.