The cost of a divorce in New York State varies widely. The average divorce in the United States costs approximately $20,000.00. I have looked for a similar figure for New York divorces, but I have been unable to find a reliable number. The $20,000.00 average for divorces in the United States is misleading as most divorces cost far less than that. The reason the average is so high is that some acrimonious divorces cost the spouses hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The reason the cost of divorces varies greatly is that the overwhelming majority of divorce attorneys bill hourly. In New York State divorce attorneys charge between $200.00 and $600.00 per hour. The hourly rates of divorce attorneys in New York State vary depending on the part of the state you live in (rates in New York City are generally higher than the rest of the state) and the experience level of the attorney.
Managing Costs in a Divorce
If you are going through a divorce and want to keep your legal fees low, follow these guidelines:
1. Resolve as many issues as you can outside of court.
Litigation is incredibly costly. In addition to attorney’s fees there are other costs associated with litigation such as expert fees, filing fees and the cost of stenographers. Therefore, the more issues you can resolve outside of court, the better. If you can resolve all issues outside of court, that is the best case.
2. Hire a reasonable divorce attorney.
Many people who are going through a divorce think they need to hire a nasty and combative divorce attorney to punish their spouse. This could not be more wrong. A combative divorce attorney will increase your legal fees greatly. Such an attorney will cause your legal fees to double or even triple. Further, except for certain extreme cases, New York law does not punish people financially for being bad spouses. Therefore, proving that your spouse is a bad person will not help you. What you want is an attorney who is reasonable, but tough (in case things go bad).
3. Hire an attorney who handles a lot of divorces.
Some attorneys only handle divorces occasionally. Don’t hire one of these attorneys. They probably won’t know the nuances of divorces and they probably won’t know all the avenues for settlement. Hire an attorney who handles a lot of divorces.
4. Understand that some issues aren’t worth litigating.
This is better illustrated through an example. Let’s assume you and your spouse are getting divorced and you both want to receive a flat screen television worth approximately $700.00. While I understand the importance of a flat screen television (I very much enjoy watching my Jets in high definition), it isn’t worth paying an attorney to fight over a television. It doesn’t make sense to pay your attorney $300.00 or $400.00 per hour to fight over a television worth $700.00. Your legal fees will exceed the cost of the television. My advice in this situation is to just buy a new television. As a rule of thumb, any asset worth less than $10,000.00 isn’t worth litigating.
5. Don’t say bad things about your spouse to your children.
You may be asking: How does this impact the amount of legal fees? This is how – nothing makes people angrier than when their soon-to-be ex says bad things about them to their children. When this happens, the target spouse (the one who had bad things said about them), will want revenge and will likely use the judicial process to exact that revenge. Saying bad things about your spouse to your children, may very well create the need for a metal health professional to get involved with your divorce.
If you follow these guidelines, you will save yourself a great deal of money.