The cost of a contested divorce will widely vary from individual to individual. Depending on how many assets are actually held (and potentially lost), the actual “cost” of a divorce will greatly vary. However, from a legal and financial perspective, the costs of litigating a contested divorce claim are somewhat more predictable. In essence, a contested divorce will prove exponentially most costly than any form of mediated or no-fault divorce agreement. Furthermore, the more “contested” a contested divorce is between two parties, the higher the costs involved. Below is a general breakdown of how legal counsel and other professionals will likely bill a contest divorce case.
First Stage of Contested Divorce: Pleadings
Contested divorce billing is done on a stage basis, with each stage of the divorce process incurring a given number of costs. Not all stages are required, as parties are free to settle at any time, and in addition, the amount of time (billable hours) spent in one stage will widely vary from case to case.
The first stage is known as the pleadings stage involving commence action in light of the inability of the parties to negotiate a settlement without extending legal action. Time required in this stage (in general) for a lawyer may include one (1) to fifteen (15) billable hours and for an accountant one (1) to three (3) billable hours, for a total cost ranging from $525 dollars up to nearly $5,000.
Second Stage: Financial Statements
This stage involves preparing and documenting the financial costs of living on weekly to yearly basis, as well as expected income on a weekly to yearly basis. Depending on the nature of assets held, this process can be relatively swift or prolonged in nature. The expected costs of stage two in a contested divorce may include anywhere from one (1) to twenty-five (25) billable hours to accountants and one (1) to five (5) billable hours to a lawyer, for a total potential cost of anywhere from $3,500 dollars up to more than $40,000 dollars.
Third Stage: Motions
Legal motions, and the costs of preparing these documents, requires preparing and filing affidavits with the courts and other parties involved. The costs of this stage will include anywhere from three (3) to twenty (20) billable hours of legal counsel, at a cost of anywhere from $825 dollars up to more than $7,500 dollars. Further costs will be incurred to argue motions in court, which may tack on an additional one (1) to fifteen (15) billable hours for legal counsel.
Fourth Stage: Examination of Parties
The fourth stage in a contested divorce includes discovery periods between both parties, as well as examining each party under oath, most likely in a deposition. The costs of this stage will again widely vary, but will include one (1) to twenty-five (25) hours of legal counsel billable hours, at a cost of anywhere from $275 (the average billable hour amount) up to nearly $7,000 dollars. Further costs may be incurred at this stage through preparation times required for examination of spouse.
Fifth Stage: Pretrial
Pretrial preparation costs can include anywhere from two (2) to six (6) hours of billable legal work. Furthermore, the costs of appearing in court can generate billable hours of one (1) to fifteen (15) more hours, for a total cost of this stage being anywhere from $1,000 dollars up to over $7,000 dollars.
Sixth Stage: Trial
The trial phase itself will include preparation time for lawyers and accountant, as well as time in court for a lawyer and an accountant. The costs will widely vary and can range anywhere from slightly over $1,000 up to over $55,000 dollars.
Getting Legal Help with a Contested Divorce
In short, the costs of a contested divorce will widely vary, but assuming parties refuse to come to an agreement before trial, the costs can range anywhere from $8,000 dollars to well over $130,000 dollars. This figure will widely vary based on the lawyer tasked with handling a divorce case, as well as the nature of divorce case itself. The only way to determine the true cost of your contested divorce will be through contacting a lawyer directly.