A common question asked of our law firm on a daily basis or even several times a day by potential new clients is, “What does a divorce cost?” If you were to ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers or just call around to several different family law firms, you will most likely find very different answers from each one of those sources.
As always at Mitchell & Crunk, we believe it is very important for our clients to be informed and making the best decisions as they work with us. We would even like our potential or “soon to be” new clients to also be as informed as they can before they hire a lawyer to represent their best interests. That being said, we would like to break down the best we can divorce lawyer pricing and costs down for you and let you know what factors come into play that cause those “very different answers” in price that you hear from all those you would ask, and then let you know what factors control our prices here at Mitchell & Crunk.
Types of Divorce
First, it depends on the type of divorce you could potentially have. The first kind of divorce is an “uncontested” divorce. It is the kind of divorce that almost everyone wants because it costs the least and is done the quickest. An uncontested divorce is when you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement as to what the terms of divorce are after everything is considered. This means either on your own or with the help of a lawyer you are able to put together a plan and make decisions on each and every term or decision that needs to be considered for a proper divorce to be completed.
The second type of divorce is a “contested” divorce explained farther down.
The price/cost of an uncontested divorce will depend on whether minor children are involved. If there are, then there will need to be a parenting plan discussed and written up so there are ground rules as to where the children are throughout the year and which parent can make certain decisions for the children. There will also need to be a write up about child support taking into account income, health insurance, and child care expenses as necessary. A price increase to factor in is typically around $500.00 to $750.00 because of these additional documents that have to be written and considered for the custody plan and which parent will make which final decisions for the children such as related to medical care, education, extracurricular activities and religious decisions.
For law firms an uncontested divorce without minor children can typically cost in attorney fees around $1,500.00 in a more rural area and around $2,500.00 for urban/city area. For an uncontested divorce with minor children the typical cost in attorney fees is around $2,000.00 in a more rural area and around $3,500.00 for urban/city area. The addition of a well-developed parenting plan and child support documents are the reason for the price difference when minor children are involved. The difference between rural and urban has to do with accessibility to the Court system and cost of living. The Court system in more rural areas tends to be easier to manage with less steps and people to talk to and the urban/city Court systems are large and have many layers to talk to the person you need to talk to for a case.
There are also court fees that are also a cost, which, in most counties in the state of Georgia cost a little over $200.00 to $250.00 when new electronic filing fees begin to take effect in 2019 and some Courts have already begun accepting electronic filing.
For an uncontested divorce those are really the only costs you should be looking at to have a proper, complete, well thought out uncontested divorce for your situation.
The price/cost of a contested divorce has many more variables that depend on your situation, but first how do you know if your divorce would be a “contested” divorce? A contested divorce is when you and your spouse do not see eye to eye on certain issues or you have knowledge that your spouse is not going to agree to certain terms that you must have put in the divorce. If your spouse will not sign and agree to the terms you need them to, then you or your lawyer will need to schedule a mediation with a mediator or ask for a hearing to be scheduled with the judge in Court to get those terms put into the divorce order.
Some examples would be you have had different roles in your marriage such as one spouse has worked and earned most if not all income the family has used to live with and the other spouse has been at home with children. Now after a divorce one spouse can keep working and living and the other spouse has to figure out how to pay bills and support a household they are not used to providing for. This could be a case for spousal support depending on the factors for spousal support (alimony) and if the spouse that worked won’t agree to paying spousal support in the amount needed then it can quickly and immediately be a “contested” type of divorce. Other commons issues are child custody issues, paying off debt issues, and dividing money or retirement accounts that one spouse acquired during the marriage to be decided or divided fairly. Basically it is when your marriage includes some aspects that are worth fighting for, so to speak, aspects that you cannot just walk away from; but your spouse doesn’t think you should have them. If that is the case, then you put your foot down and make it fair; that is a contested divorce.
When this happens, it becomes a type of divorce that needs to be figured out through the advice of a lawyer in our opinion, by either mediation to resolve the conflicts or by preparing for a trial in court in front of a judge, even though not required by law. There is too much on the line in our professional opinion to consider doing a contested divorce on your own. Here we see many people end up with regrets and realizing so much went wrong for them. There is a common saying among lawyers that says, “A lawyer who represents himself, has a fool for a client.” If that is true, even among lawyers, then the risk of it being true for someone that is not a lawyer should even be greater for most people.
When you hire a lawyer, the lawyer now has an obligation to you, as the lawyer’s client and to your children, but also to the court to report to work on anything and appear for any reason that the court decides for the lawyer to appear. Also, remember, they do not have control over the other party (your spouse). Based on what your spouse does or doesn’t do, and based on what the court asks and requires of the parties in your contested divorce, the time, effort and energy put into the divorce can vary greatly.
Sometimes it ends up being settled quickly and not costing very much, but other times it can go on for months and months, even past a year where your lawyer has to be working on your case periodically. For that reason, the cost for this type of divorce can vary greatly.
On the less expensive end, which usually involves a mediation or some sort of settlement, the cost can be as low as $3,500.00 if there are no minor children involved in a rural area. If minor children are involved then the price changes to around $4,500.00 in a rural area. In a more urban/city area these prices will commonly be $5,000.00 without minor children involved and $6,500.00 if there are minor children involved in the divorce.
If going to court is required, then the cost has a range of different prices. You could pay as little as $4,500.00 without children involved or $5,000.00 with minor children involved, or all the way on the high end to $15,000.00 without minor children involved or $17,000.00 with minor children involved for a jury trial for more rural areas. The more common average price being around $6,000.00 without minor children involved and around $7,000.00 with minor children involved.
In urban/city areas the prices go up a few thousand dollars to a low end of $6,000.00 without minor children involved or $7,000.00 with minor children involved, or all the way on the high end to $18,000.00 without minor children involved or $21,000.00 with minor children involved for a jury trial. The more common average price being around $8,000.00 without minor children involved and around $9,500.00 with minor children involved.
There are also court fees that are also a cost with a contested divorce, which again, in most counties in the state of Georgia cost a little over $200.00 to $250.00 when new electronic filing fees begin to take effect in 2019 and some Courts have already begun accepting electronic filing. Additionally, with contested divorce cases you will pay a $50.00 to $75.00 on average depending on the county and location as a service fee to be paid to the sheriff’s department usually to serve the other party in the beginning of your case.
There can also be other applicable costs such as private investigators, forensic accountants, appraisers, life coaching/training fees, and custody evaluators/guardian ad litem fees (if child custody disputes exist). Private investigators can cost as much as $150.00 for simple tasks and up to $2000.00 and up for surveillance type of work. Forensic accountants cost around $250.00 for simple tasks and can cost $1,500.00 and up for more complex financial concerns. Appraisers typically cost around $450.00 to appraise a home value and more to assess the value of other items. Life coaching/training costs range from $50.00 a month to $2000.00 or more a month depending on the type and intensity of the coaching/training. Custody evaluators or Guardian ad litems typically cost around $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 up front and at times have a final bill depending on the children and work involved of another $2,000.00 to $3,000.00 or more. Each of these costs can be very beneficial and worth the cost compared to the cost of not using them in your divorce case. It is vital to choose a lawyer or law firm you trust to make the best decisions to use these additional services for your divorce case.
At Mitchell & Crunk
Here at Mitchell & Crunk, we are committed to open pricing and try to send a bill as little as necessary, but if we do, to fully explain why the bill developed in your case ahead of time by discussing it with you days in advance, if not weeks in advance of you receiving the bill for our services in your case. We know our clients rarely have a “divorce fund/account” that they have been saving money in for the day when they would need to get divorced. It is money that at times they had to tap into savings or retirement to pay us, money originally planned for our client’s future. It is money sometimes on a credit card that has to be paid back but used because their case is so important and vital for them to get accomplished with us.
We also want to form relationships for the long term gains of future referrals for our good work and honest pricing, and not the short term gain of quick profits but a client that feels ripped off and will not refer anyone in the future, let alone speak poorly of us.