Cost of Divorce

When facing the prospect of divorce, it is natural to be concerned about the expense involved. It is difficult to say with certainty how much your divorce will cost because it depends so heavily on the circumstances. The cost will ultimately depend on how complex the case is and how difficult the parties find it to settle. With that in mind, we have created a guide to answer frequently asked questions about divorce expenses and our attorney fees.

Our Consultation Fee

At Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg & Solomon, PC, a consultation is charged at the rate of $425 per hour.

We do not offer free consultations. Our experience is that it is very difficult to provide customized and substantial information in a free consultation, which is necessarily brief. Most attorneys who offer free consultations offer very general information about divorce, rather than the personalized answers prospective clients are seeking.

What Should I Expect From an Initial Consultation?

The time spent in an initial consultation depends on your particular needs; consultations typically range between one and two hours, but could be longer or shorter if needed. In order to get the most out of your consultation, you should bring with you:

  • All documents pertaining to your case if you or your spouse have already filed a court case
  • A list of your assets and debts including credit card balances, retirement accounts, fair market value of your home, and remaining mortgage and home equity loan balance
  • Year-end and current pay stubs for you and your spouse
  • Cost of health insurance for family versus single
  • Two years of tax returns
  • Photos, text messages, and emails that apply to emergent issues

By law, we cannot represent both spouses in a divorce or other action in which they are opposing parties, and we check for conflicts of interest before an initial consultation. If there are none, we will schedule your consultation; if there is a conflict, we will refer you to another experienced family law attorney or a credible lawyer referral agency.

Understand that use of the internet to communicate with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship, and confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent using online forms.

At the conclusion of your consultation, if you and the attorney agree, you will be given the opportunity to retain the firm to represent you.

How Much is a Divorce Retainer Fee?

The amount of the retainer depends on numerous facts including how complicated the case is expected to be and the scope of services requested. For a relatively straightforward limited-scope representation (for example, drafting a motion for the client to use as her or his own lawyer), a retainer could be as low as $1200; for a high-conflict divorce involving full representation, or international cases, it could be over $10,000. An average retainer ranges between $3500 and $7000. As your attorney works on your case, hours will be charged against your retainer and reflected on your monthly bill. Hourly rates range from $275 to $400. When your retainer is nearly depleted, you will be asked to replenish it.

Divorce Mediation: A Cost Effective Approach

Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg & Solomon, PC’s attorneys’ hourly rate for mediation ranges between $250-$350, depending on the attorney. The retainer for divorce mediation is typically about $750 - $1,250 for each spouse. At the end of the mediation, the parties are expected to pay in full any fees incurred that exceed the retainer.

Managing Attorney Fees

We often advise clients to put attorney fees on a joint credit card. However, if you do not want your spouse to be aware of the transaction, you will need to find another way to pay for an initial consultation and other up-front costs.

Can My Spouse Be Made to Pay My Attorney Fees?

It depends on the circumstances of your case, county, and Judge whether you are likely to receive attorney fees. Under the Michigan court rules, the court may order one spouse to pay the other’s attorney fees and expenses if the requesting party can show they are unable to bear the expense and the other party is able to pay, or the attorney fees were incurred because the other party refused to comply with a previous court order, despite having the ability to comply, or engaged in discovery practices in violation of the court rules.

What Other Expenses Will I Have Besides Attorney Fees?

Attorney fees are not the only expense in a divorce. You may also expect to pay other costs, including:

  • Filing fees (to initiate the divorce and any motions, including post-judgment motions)
  • Mediator fees
  • Real estate appraiser fees
  • Forensic (expert) witnesses, such as business valuation experts and child custody evaluators

Advice From Our Divorce Attorneys

It is important to remember a few things. First, your divorce is the foundation for the next chapter of your life. You want it to be solid and competently built. Just as you wouldn’t hire a cut-rate contractor to build a foundation for your home, you should not retain an attorney just because they offer the lowest hourly rate.

The second thing to remember is that a low hourly rate for an attorney does not necessarily translate into a lower bill for you. Your attorney fees equal the hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours the attorney works on your behalf. The more experienced an attorney, the more efficient she presumably will be. Also, higher fees generally are an indication of more staff assistance that is not billed to you directly, or billed at a lower rate, reducing overall costs.

Third, know that your own choices and decisions will impact the cost of your divorce, perhaps more than anything else. In particular, unnecessary fighting leads to unnecessary costs. An experienced attorney will advise you when it is important to stand your ground, and when refusing to compromise is likely to be costly, with little benefit. A good attorney will also let you know specific actions you can take to minimize your attorney fees.

Contact Us

If you have further questions about the cost of divorce, please contact Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg & Solomon, PC to schedule a consultation. Remember that communicating with our law office or an attorney in our firm over the internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship, and that our office must perform a conflict check before scheduling a consultation.