What Costs Factor into a Divorce?
How much will this divorce cost you? How much your divorce will cost you depends on a number of factors. The main factors are:
- How contested is your case going to be?
- Are there children involved?
- Are there issues regarding parenting time?
- Are there issues regarding child support?
- Are the parties incomes easy to determine?
It’s easy to determine income for purposes of child support if both parents are W-2 wage earners like teachers or firefighters. It’s a lot more difficult to determine income for purposes of child support if a party is self-employed because they can deduct reasonable and necessary business expenses.
Other factors that determine costs and drive costs are how often do you have to go to court? Do you need a temporary orders hearing? Are temporary orders regarding possession use of the property and child support, spousal support, payment of debts an issue? Do you need to get the court involved in that? Or, do you have a situation where your financial picture is fairly straightforward and you don’t need the involvement of experts or a business evaluation? Those factors all determine cost.
Attorney Fees and Fee Structure
Family law attorneys charge by the hour. Here at Lewis and Matthews, we charge $285 an hour for my time, and $155 an hour for paralegal time. Secretarial time, such as a legal assistance is $50 an hour. We try to minimize the cost for the client as much as possible by delegating matters to the least expensive person who’s capable of handling that. Other factors regarding costs are whether you have property that needs to be appraised? Do you need to hire a formal appraiser to appraise property? Those appraisals usually cost between $500 and $750 a piece. Or, are you able to reach an agreement regarding values based upon Zillow? Are you able to stipulate as to the value of the piece of property.
Other Cost Drivers
Other factors that drive costs are whether you need to hire a child and family investigator to deal with issues regarding parenting time? A child and family investigator charges a statutory fee of $2,000. That is the cap under Colorado law. Usually those fees are paid equally by the parties. Another expert that your case might require is a parental responsibilities evaluator. Those fees typically start with a $5,000 retainer. It can easily exceed $10,000 depending on the depth of the report. Again, how much time an effort your attorney has to spend on your case drives the costs.
Most family law attorneys charge a retainer. Our retainer here at Lewis and Matthews is between $3,000 and $5,000, depending upon the complexity and the anticipated involvement of the attorney in your case. We will tell you that at the time of the initial consultation and also provide you with budget information, and ways that you can help hold the costs down. There are certainly things that you can do in managing your case that will keep your costs under control.
How Can You Control Costs
Factors that you could control include preparation of your sworn financial statement. If you’re an organized individual and you’re able to fill out your sworn financial statement fairly completely without much involvement from us, that’s going to save you time and money. If you’re able to gather the documents that are required under Colorado law to produce to our office, that’s also going to save you money. Again, a lot of what your case costs depends on you, and you can help control that by your behavior. What we can’t always control is the behavior of the other party. Sometimes that behavior does drive up costs. For example, if another party is not represented by an attorney, often times the attorney that’s involved in the case has to do a lot of the work for the unrepresented party. That cost does get shifted to the person who has retained the attorney.
Again, there are a lot of factors involved, but here at Lewis and Matthews, we try to have an upfront conversation with you about what your case is going to cost and the factors that drive those costs. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we have a lot of years of experience and we try to give you a picture so that you can set up a budget and know what you’re going to need moving forward.
Want to get a more personalized assessment of expected costs? Call us at (303) 329-3802 to get started today.