While you might be worried it will cost a lot of money to go through, on top of any spousal or child support you might have to pay, it is likely not as bad as you are imagining it to be. This article will walk you through the divorce process so you can understand it better as well as understand the control you and your spouse have over the proceedings.
How much does it cost?
Wondering how much a divorce costs is an incredibly common question to ask a lawyer before going through a divorce. There are plenty of attorneys out there who will not want to answer this question. For some, it is simply because they can only provide an incredibly rough estimate of what you would end up paying.
The cost will vary from state to state and depends upon the type of case you are engaging in, like uncontested versus contested. This article applies to California divorce cases and any numbers listed are very general estimations of average hypothetical situations. So, keep in mind that these may not apply directly to you and your situation.
Estimated Uncontested Divorce Cost
I will give you a hypothetical situation to base your numbers off of, but before we get to that, let’s cover the paperwork you will need to do. In an uncontested case, you are likely to do the following:
- File a divorce petition
- Have a response to the divorce petition filed
- You don’t need to file a formal request for more information as there are no complex issues within your case
- There is no time spent or papers filed for court or setting a court date
- You and your spouse don’t need an expert witness to determine income for support, determining the value of your assets, or another similar issue
- Both spouses prepare the declaration of disclosure and there is no need for any back and forth discussion
- Settlement negotiations go well
- An attorney will prepare the stipulated judgement, which contains all of the settlement terms
- Finalizing this judgement doesn’t need any back and forth conversation
You are likely to have a slightly more complex case, but this in an incredibly simple type of divorce proceeding.
Now here is the example:
You and your spouse have been married for 8 years and own a house that’s considered community property. This house has $100,000 equity in it. You make $100,000 per year and are a W2 employee while your spouse makes $40,000 per year and is also a W2 employee. You both work predictable and regular 8-hour shifts. You have had 2 kids together, both of whom are under the age of 10. Both of you have your own separate cars and 401k account.
What about child custody?
As you are both good parents, you should be able to work out and agree upon an equally divided visitation schedule as well as having joint custody of both children. Your schedules regarding the children depend more upon equal percentages of time rather than how much personal time you spend with them. For example, you work while your kids go to school, but that still counts as part of your custody time.
While coming to this agreement, if there is minimal to no back and forth debate about it, it should take somewhere between 2 to 4 hours to settle this. Why does this matter? Because you are both likely to have an attorney that you will need to pay per hour. In the case of an attorney with an hourly rate of $400, you already need to pay them $800-1600 just for discussing child custody.
But how much will child support and spousal support cost?
Because you are both W2 employees in this scenario, you can easily calculate child support. There is a computer program that is used to figure this out. Due to the income difference, alimony might come into play. The computer program will also calculate a temporary alimony rate for you to pay while everyone can discuss what the official alimony will be. You do this by talking about your marital lifestyle and then you can figure out the alimony for the next 4 years – it is half the amount of time you have been married.
In this scenario, there also haven’t been any fluctuations in income during the marriage. If there are straightforward negotiations with almost no disagreements, this will take between 3 to 5 hours of your time. Assuming the same $400 rate, this is another $1,200-$2,000.
Division of Assets and Debts
For your house, as it is community property, you will both receive $50,000 if there is a buyout. If either one of you have enough money in your 401K that one person can buy the other out is another option.
Any money in the bank starting the date of the separation will usually be split 50/50. Any debts started during the marriage will also be split equally. Money can be offset in some areas to avoid having any liquidated property.
With, once again, simple and quick negotiations, this can take between 4-6 hours of your attorney’s time. With the same rate, this will cost about $1,600-$2,400.
What’s the estimated cost?
In this scenario, $3,600 to $6,000 is the estimated number. However, the actual number may be even larger than this. This is another case of time is money, so having less disagreements and working cohesively with your spouse and the attorneys will make this an easier process – both on you mentally and emotionally as well as financially.
It is likely both spouses will pay within the same range listed here. One attorney may do more work and, as a result, need to be paid more for their services. In general, assume you both will need to pay within this price range.
Estimated Cost in a Disputed Case
The scenario listed within this article is the absolute ideal situation you can be in as the spouses and lawyers are working together with almost no debates. This means that you could end up spending much more time corresponding with your spouse about various issues in the case.
For example, say you end up spending 5 to 6 hours negotiating through phone calls and revision your draft of stipulations. This already increases the range of money you would need to pay to your attorney up to $2,000 to $2,400.
What about child/spousal support disputes?
Having a dispute between 2 W2 employees who agree on custody time is rare because the percentage of parenting time as well as income are the most important factors to child support.
However, with spousal support, you may both disagree on the standard of living during the marriage. There can be disagreements about the spousal support duration, claims that the lower-earning spouse is underemployed, and even more. This can take up hours upon hours of time to resolve, but let’s imagine a range of 5 to 10 hours to sort this out. At the rate of $400 per hour, this can quickly shoot up to $2,000-$4,000. You might even spend more time than the range listed on these negotiations.
Disputes about Division of Assets/Debts
Another question here could be how much the cost would be if the spouses can’t agree about whether the house will be sold or if a spouse will buy the other one out. Sometimes people can’t imagine leaving the home their children grew up in or that they are emotionally attached to. However, a buyout may not be practical.
For example, if both spouses are on the loan and one spouse can’t afford to refinance the loan in order to have the other one removed, would it make sense to have a buyout situation when one would still be on the loan without owning the house?
Once again, there can be a lot of discussions held about these things. There can even be an insistence to determine the market value. After appraisal, still there could be a disagreement as one spouse might want to receive more money while the other wants to pay less for it.
Disputes with Family Code 2640
The house itself may not be the only reason why a dispute would occur. A spouse could claim that the house had been purchased with separate property funds. This situation can occur when there is a down payment being made with one of the spouse’s money before the marriage. This can cause a Family Code 2640 claim where the spouse wants reimbursement for the down payment before any of the remaining equity is divided.
The examples that have been listed within this article are just a few of the once you may experience within your own divorce case. As you can tell by now, the cost of your divorce case greatly hinges on how long you and your spouse debate different issue and how much time is spent drafting up the conclusions.
Direct Relations Order and Your Retirement Account
There are many situations when a retirement fund, like your pension or 401K, must go through domestic relations in order to be divided properly. At Majd Law Firm, we will refer your domestic relations orders to other attorneys that are dedicated to preparing and handling these orders.
The cost for the domestic relations orders can vary anywhere from $750-$2,000 as the absolute minimum and maximum you could pay.
Estimated Cost of a Truly Contested Divorce
In this situation, there wouldn’t simply be long negotiation periods, but rather litigation. The process of litigation can include things like the service of discovery, incomplete disclosures that need to be discussed, and any child custody disputes that need to be filed by the court.
How much would discovery requests add to the divorce costs?
Discovery requests are a formal request for more information. This can include things like requesting to come up with certain documents, having specially drafted interrogations, and requesting a spouse to admit certain facts are true under oath.
If a spouse wants more information from a third party, like a bank or their spouse’s employer, they would need to serve a subpoena through their lawyer.
Here is the list of possible options in discovery requests and how long they can take to complete:
- Family Law Form: pre-printed documents where you simply need to check boxes, but they can take hours to complete
- Producing Documents: this depends on what documents need to be produced and how secretive the other spouse is; the more secretive, the more information that needs to be put out in the open; simply drafting the request can take hours and responding to the request can take even longer
- Special Interrogatories and Requests for Admissions: these are yet another two very time-consuming requests to fulfill because they have incredibly strict drafting laws attached to them
- Depositions: these are an effective way to obtain information and figure out a spouse’s misrepresentations, false allegations of abuse, and misconduct; typically takes less than 7 hours on record to complete, which may be a full day when breaks are included; the court reporter tends to charge by the page and the length determines the court reporting price; about $1,300 to $2,500
- Subpoenas: take less than 2 hours, particularly for simple things like employment records; complex subpoenas can take more time
- Discovery Disputes: generally, the request and response is only a part of the cost; can also involve letters known as “meet and confer” letters when lawyers need to meet about incomplete or deficient discovery responses; can take 5-10 hours to prepare a motion to compel while the hearing can take half a day
There can also be disagreements about the accuracy or completeness of any disclosures. Lying on any income or expense declaration, however, is incredibly serious and can lead to consequences. This type of dispute can lead to a meet and confer process between the different lawyers.
If both spouses cooperate to fix this, the process can be down within a few hours. However, if there is not proper cooperation, it can take a lot more time to complete.
Dispute about Child Custody/Parenting Time
This is one dispute that can’t be properly estimated. This is because it all depends on how extensive the litigation is. So, spouses could argue about parenting time, which could be resolved within a court appearance or at mediation meeting.
The catch is that one spouse has to file a request for an order with the court, explain the other spouse’s position, and have a court date assigned to them. Then the other spouse has to file a response as well as any additional paperwork, like exhibit lists.
This process can cost around $5,000 for one court appearance, although it varies depending on your particular situation
Dispute Over Child/Spousal Support
Once you and your spouse have agreed upon parenting times, the rest tends to be pretty easy. Temporary spousal support also tends to be easy because it is temporary and because, in this hypothetical situation, the computer figures it out for you.
A lot of the support disputes tend to also have the same paperwork and are done at the same hearing as the custody and parenting time disputes, so it doesn’t take up too much time.
However, there are some situations where the time depends on whether or not there are issues of imputation of income and if one person wants a vocational examiner appointed to your case.
In California, having date of separation disputes is fairly common. This is because the date of separation can have a large impact when analyzing whether something is community or separate property and the spousal support, among other things. If both spouses can’t agree on the date of separation and they decide to litigate it, the Family Court can have a hearing for this issue. Depending on how many witnesses, exhibits, and pieces of evidence are involved, a hearing for the date of separation can cost thousands of dollars.
What if the divorce proceeds into a trial?
This is probably the most difficult part to come up with a good estimate for. There is a lot involved in this process and, with our hypothetical situation, it would not be too complicate or lengthy.
However, if the spouses don’t agree on anything and all the issues go to trial, tens of thousands of dollars can be spent simply covering the attorney fees.
Recovering Divorce Cost
If you are someone in the middle class that is going through a divorce – with only small custody issues involved and your spouse is simply being stubborn, then it will cost more for you to complete. However, you will also have the right to pursue Family Code section 271 in order to get attorney fees put onto your spouse for their stubborn behavior. This doesn’t even need to be done after the case has been settled, it can be done early into the case.
If you are in a situation with a large income difference between you and your spouse, then you also have a need for fees on top of Family Code section 271. Family Code 2030-2032 gives a spouse the right to seek out attorney’s fees and lawyers can even obtain these fees against the spouse for a greater price.
If you are earning more money than your spouse, who is being unreasonable, you also have rights. How much money you earn is not truly a factor here.
High Asset/Contention Case
Essentially, this depends on what your reason for fighting is. If you were fighting about $100,000.00 of a million-dollar estate, then this is pretty foolish. If you had a $10 million-dollar estate with millions of dollars being disputed, then you are more reasonable in spending money over this high asset case.
Contact Your Divorce Attorney
You should definitely discuss budgeting with your attorney. This is an important part of facing your divorce because we help all of our Beverly Hills clients to better plan and prepare for their divorce case. There is not, as you know by now, a real way to calculate the total of the fees you will spend. It’s out hope that we plan and prepare enough so that you are not senselessly wasting money on your case.
Farbod Majd Esq.
Divorce Attorney w/ offices in Beverly Hills/Los Angeles
Services in English, Turkish, and Farsi/Persian (Iranian/American Lawyer)
8383 Wilshire Blvd Suite 646, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
310.956.4600 | Fax: 310.878.8989 | [email protected]