Average cost of a Divorce ranges from
$100 - $650 /hr | Average $250 /hr

The average cost for a divorce lawyer is $250 an hour. Hiring a divorce lawyer for representation, you will likely spend between $100 and $650 per hour. The price of a divorce lawyer can vary greatly by region (and even by zip code). View our local divorce lawyers or get free estimates from lawyers near you.

How much does a divorce cost?

No one would ever describe the divorce process as being pleasant; neither would any spouses say on their wedding day they were planning on divorcing down the road. But divorce happens—for at least 50 percent of all first, second, and third marriages. If you’re in that unfortunate place where you can see the writing on the wall, the cost of a good divorce attorney—one who will provide sound representation—is likely to cost you about $250 or more per hour. The total cost of a divorce is about $15,000, but can go as high as $100,000 depending on how many issues you want a judgment on and how set both parties are on winning. The final price tag will depend on the length of the process (usually nine to eleven months) and how much is at stake.

Standard Hourly Rates

Divorces can be time-consuming and messy, and the issues in each divorce are different from one couple to the next. Because the outcome of every divorce is determined by the defendants, the attorneys, and what is at stake, it’s nearly impossible to find a standard overall cost. If you do manage to find an attorney offering representation for a flat rate, you should definitely do your due diligence and look into the firm, as well as who the firm has represented and the judgments on previous cases.

There are some very respectable attorneys and firms who offer a flat rate billing structure in order to keep the billing process simple for the client, such as Edwards Family Law in Atlanta, GA, who offer $295 per hour office time and $325 per hour court time. Some dubious firms appear to offer a flat fee but then add in unexpected fees and upcharges; however, most attorneys charge an hourly rate. For example, Debra F. Schneider, Esq. in Hackensack, NJ, charges a standard hourly rate of $350/hour; The Law Firm of Duane St Pierre, PC in Chicago, IL, bills office time at $295/hour, while court time is billed out at $325/hour. Sommer & Associates in Boston, MA, charges an hourly rate of $330/hour, though a sliding scale is possible depending on the case and the circumstances.

Retainer Fees

When hiring an attorney, you will generally have to pay a retainer fee—an upfront payment paid by the client before any legal work is conducted. The point of a retainer is two-fold:

  1. It acts as a down payment to secure the attorney you choose. It ensures payment for when the entire process is complete.
  2. It covers the costs of future hours billed. Instead of keeping your retainer and then charging you for each hour billed after that, many lawyers will keep this retainer as a down payment and apply it to the total bill when the entire process is complete.

These retainer fees are based on a divorce attorney’s hourly rate. The size of the retainer will depend on the issues discussed in an initial consultation—namely child custody, child support, alimony or spousal support, the division of property, and the division of debts.

Eckhoff & Massarelli, P.C. in Chicago, IL, typically requires a retainer of $3,000- $3,500, while The Law Office Of Timothy M. Sweet, Esq., LLC in Providence, RI, charges a standard retainer fee of $1,500. The inconsistencies between these two retainer fees show that the price you pay will depend largely on the preferences of the attorney and the issues the defendant wishes to address.

Free Consultations

Most firms offer a free consultation, and it can be very helpful in finding the attorney that's a good fit for the particular details that need to be resolved in your divorce. A good consultation will cover

  • an estimate of the final cost,
  • insight on what you can expect out of the divorce, and
  • guidelines on how to conduct yourself for the duration of the case.

The Law Office of Omar K Qadeer, PC in New Brunswick, NJ, offers free consultations for far more than divorce cases. The Law Office Of Carlo G. D’Agostino in Chicago, IL, also provides a free consultation. In most cases, a phone call or an e-mail explaining your situation and requesting a consultation will garner a response within forty-eight hours.

Flat Rate Billing

Despite the possibility of stuffing extras onto the cost, flat rate billing, when done right and ethically, can make things much easier for the client. The Law Office Of Carlo G. D’Agostino, mentioned above, is one of those legitimate firms with a solid track record. They offer flat rate billing so as to always keep their clients on track with the cost of their services. William A. Caldwell, P.C. in Boston, MA, is also a firm that opts to bill its clients using a flat hourly rate, and it has been operating as a Massachusetts law firm for over thirty years. Sometimes, though, shady law firms will use this as a way to lure in clients in a vulnerable position and take their money without providing a quality service. A careful online search for reviews should give you the information you need to avoid these kinds of firms.

Court Costs

Be aware that you not only have to pay for the attorney’s costs, but also for court costs, which usually cost more than the attorney does per hour. The two parties involved in the divorce will sometimes split these fees, but it’s not farfetched to find yourself paying the full fee out of pocket.

The filing fee is usually the most expensive fee you will pay to the courts when filing for a divorce. The cost will vary from state to state, but typically it’s about $300, which can sting, considering the circumstances. Other small fees may come up during the proceeding as well, but the filing fee is the initial court expense.

Choosing a Divorce Lawyer

Far more important than what you are paying your lawyer and the courts is hiring the right attorney. Do your research based on what you can afford, and find the right representation to protect what you have at stake. Attorneys can be expensive, yes, but there is potentially much more to lose out on if you hire someone who does not have the resources or experience to represent you properly.

A Cheaper Option

If you can persuade your soon-to-be ex to mediate every issue with you outside the courts, the divorce can cost a lot less than the average $15,000. The sooner you do this, the less it will cost and the quicker the divorce will be finalized—in most cases, in half the time. Letting a judge decide the outcome of who pays off which debts, where the kids will live, and who gets the house can end up far worse for everyone involved when it could be possible to let rational discussion resolve all those issues in advance. Once you hire your attorney, ask if he or she can recommend a good mediator and start there. The less the courts are involved, the better all round.

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