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Whether you’re thinking about filing for divorce, or your spouse has already served you with divorce papers, at some point you may wonder: how much does divorce cost? Looking up the average cost of divorce isn’t going to help you much, since that average includes couples from every state and divorces of every level of complexity.

The truth is that the cost of a Maryland divorce varies greatly depending on the circumstances. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what costs you can expect to have in your divorce, and what to expect regarding attorney fees in divorce.

Understanding Typical Divorce Costs

When people talk about the cost of divorce, often what they are thinking about is attorney fees. It’s true that attorney fees often make up the greatest percentage of the total divorce cost. That said, there are other expenses associated with divorce, depending on your situation. You should be aware of these other costs so that you can factor them into your divorce budgeting. Here are some of the expenses you could have in your divorce:

Of course, not all divorces will include all of these expenses, and some divorces may involve expenses not listed here. There are also other expenses that are not divorce costs per se, but which are associated with a divorce, such as rent on an apartment if you move out of the home you share with your spouse.

Attorney Fees in a Maryland Divorce

It’s likely that the expense you are most concerned with is your attorney fees in divorce. Let’s talk about what’s involved in your attorney fees, and how to get the best representation for your money.

The attorney fees in any divorce case are going to depend primarily on two factors: the attorney’s hourly rate and the complexity of the divorce matter. Your fee is the attorney’s hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours he or she works on your case.

Hiring a Cheap Divorce Lawyer to Lower Divorce Cost

You may think that it makes sense to retain the attorney with the lowest hourly rate you can find, but that is often a mistake. There are several reasons why:

  • An attorney’s hourly rate is usually tied to their experience; the more experienced the attorney, the higher hourly rate they can command. Oftentimes, the cost for an experienced attorney is worth the investment.
  • The number of hours an attorney will need to put in on your case is not fixed. A less-experienced attorney with a lower rate may need to put in more hours to perform a task. And related to this, a less experienced attorney may spend lots of time on tasks of less or no importance that an experienced attorney might avoid. So, while the hourly rate may be lower, the number of hours by which that rate is multiplied may be higher. You could end up paying more in fees for a less-skilled attorney.
  • The reality is that the longer a divorce case drags on, the more hours an attorney might have to bill in bringing it to a resolution. No ethical attorney would deliberately extend the length of their client’s case. But an attorney who is an experienced negotiator can often bring a divorce to a quicker and more favorable resolution than one who is not. Shortening the length of the case lowers the total amount of attorney fees.

In a nutshell, while your attorney’s hourly rate matters, it is not the only thing that matters. An inexperienced attorney could wind up costing you more than an experienced one. And if the experienced attorney gets you a better result, the fee you pay will be worth it—so hire the best attorney you can afford, as an investment in your future.

Cost-Effective Divorce Options

As a general rule, attorney fees will be lower for a divorce involving a short marriage with no children and few assets than for a longer marriage with significant assets, disputed custody of minor children, and financial support issues.

It won’t come as a surprise that one of the primary things that drive up the cost of a divorce is fighting. The more difficulty you have working with your spouse to resolve issues in your divorce, the more your attorneys will need to be involved resolving those issues on your behalf. That will probably include negotiations by phone, but could also include the need to draft motions and briefs and appear in court. A ruling by the judge may be necessary to preserve your rights during the divorce, but preparing for and attending hearings may involve hours of work for your attorney.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is often a more effective, less contentious, and less expensive way to resolve conflicts. During the divorce process, at Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield we work as efficiently as possible to achieve a favorable result in a cost-effective manner. We offer a variety of divorce options, including Collaborative Divorce and mediation, to achieve those goals.

The Divorce Process at Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield

At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we offer prospective clients an initial consultation and case evaluation at a fixed rate of $450. For that rate, you can meet with two of our attorneys for at least an hour to discuss the specifics of your situation and receive thoughtful feedback. You will also have the opportunity to get to know our attorneys and our approach to practice, and get a sense of whether our firm is the right fit for you.

We do not offer free consultations as some firms do. Free consultations are typically brief and non-specific, and we find that what people facing divorce want most is to be listened to and to receive answers about their situation. Individuals who have an initial consultation with our firm usually tell us that the consultation fee is well worth it.

Managing the Cost of Divorce

After the initial consultation, if we agree to work with each other, you will be asked to provide a retainer fee. Paying a retainer helps you manage divorce costs and ensures your attorney is available to manage your case. The retainer is based on the amount of time we estimate will be required to resolve your case.

The payment is placed in our trust account and is only transferred to the firm’s business account as we perform work on your case and bill for it. If the retainer is depleted, you will be asked to replenish it; any retainer funds left in trust after your case is finished will be returned to you.

Who pays attorney fees in divorce?

As a general rule, attorney fees are paid by the person being represented. In some limited situations, the court might make your spouse pay your attorney fees, especially if they acted in bad faith to run up the cost of litigation. But even if you are responsible for paying your own legal expenses, there are ways to keep them manageable while still getting the representation you need. For instance, gathering needed financial documents yourself can save your attorney a lot of time—and save you a lot of money. If you’re concerned about managing legal fees, know that you’re not alone, and don’t be shy about asking how you can keep legal costs under control. We are often asked that question, and are happy to help you conserve your resources whenever possible.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Attorney Today

At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we understand that the divorce cost is a concern to all clients, regardless of their income level. We are committed to being proactive and transparent in our communications about fees, so clients will understand what they are being billed for and will not be surprised by fees.

To learn more about divorce attorney fees, how to keep attorney fees down, who pays for attorney fees in divorce, and related issues, please contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield.

Categories: Divorce