Often when people come to consultations with one of our attorneys, they are primarily concerned with three (3) things: how a divorce is going to affect their children; their ability to maintain their lifestyle after a divorce; and how much a divorce is going to cost. A very common question at initial consultations is “How long is this going to take and how much is it going to cost?” The answer varies greatly depending on the parties, their ability to cooperate, and the attorney they hire.
People often come to the firm and say they have a simple divorce, only to discover down the line that the rough agreement they reached with their spouse is seriously deficient and requires substantial work in order to ensure that they are adequately protected in the divorce. In situations where the parties may not have substantial assets, it is possible for a divorce to be done quickly and with minimal cost. However, if there are children involved it is unlikely that this will happen unless the parents are on the same page.
In some instances, there have been clients who have discussed divorce with their spouse at length and come to the initial consultation with a rough outline of the desired settlement agreement. These cases are likely be more inexpensive as the parties have already discussed many of the major issues. However, it is likely that some of the nuances of the law were overlooked and the attorney will need to address it in order to ensure protection. Even these “simple” divorces, however, can cost a few thousand dollars depending on how much time the attorney must spend in drafting the agreement and going back to the parties with issues that remain. However, cases where the parties are able to work out an agreement quickly by working together and compromising are by far the cheapest of the divorce cases.
In a situation where the parties simply do not get along and will not agree on anything at all, you can expect that the counsel fees will be much higher. If one party is unwilling to negotiate and is taking unreasonable positions, it is very likely that the other party will incur very high counsel fees because they will need to file motions to compel movement in the case. A judge cannot make a final determination in a matter until the time of trial, but they can make what is known as pendente lite decisions while the divorce is pending which generally forms the basis for a settlement agreement. If the parties do not have significant bank accounts or access to credit, a judge may order the liquidation of a marital asset in order to provide the parties with funds to pay their attorneys.
For the above reasons, it is nearly impossible to say what the average cost of divorce is. Additionally, the cost of a divorce is largely dependent on the individual attorney fees charged by the firm that represents you. In Central Jersey, family law attorney hourly rates can vary greatly from around $200 per hour up through $600 per hour. These rates are only for the attorney’s time and do not represent the time billed by the paralegals and support staff that are an integral part of the process. In many situations, one party may not have the same level of income or access to assets that the other may have. This may require the filing of a motion to ask a judge to provide that spouse with funds for their legal representation to level the playing field. Ultimately, in many settlement agreements, the parties each are responsible for their own counsel fees associated with the divorce process.
If you have questions regarding your divorce, contact DeTorres & DeGeorge at 908-284-6005 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.