There’s one thing almost everyone contemplating divorce wants to know: what is the average cost of divorce? That is a totally valid concern, especially since getting the act of getting divorced itself changes your cost of living and financial situation. Unfortunately, it can be a difficult question to answer precisely in a blog post.
That, of course, is because every divorce is different. Some involve significant assets; others involve very few. The divorcing couple may be childless, or may need to work out the often contentious issues of child custody and child support. They may be on good terms with each other, or determined to make the other spouse pay—even if it costs them to do so.
Even with the variation in divorces, there are a few things you can predict, such as filing fees, and the range of hourly rates attorneys tend to charge. Most of your expense in your divorce will probably be from attorney fees: your attorney’s hourly rate, multiplied by the number of hours the attorney spends on your case.
As of this writing, the fee to file a divorce in a Utah court is $325.00. This is a fee that must be paid directly to the court at the time the case is filed. However, if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you may be able to get a fee waiver by filing a Motion to Waive Fees with supporting documentation.
If you need to have your spouse served with the divorce papers, you may have to pay a fee to a process server. Fees for service of process vary, but are often in the range of $50-$100. Remote locations or evasive recipients may make service of process more expensive. If your spouse is willing to acknowledge receipt of the documents in a way the court will accept, you will not need to use a process server.
You may also be required to take a divorce orientation course, for which the fee is $30, and/or a divorce education course, for which the fee is $35.
According to Lawyers.com, the average hourly rate for a Utah divorce attorney is between $195 and $230. This is significantly lower than divorce attorneys in most of the United States. Of course, this figure is an average range for the state, and you may pay more or less per hour.
Let’s take a moment to discuss those hourly rates, what goes into setting them, and why it may not make sense to retain an attorney who offers the lowest hourly rate. Attorneys typically base their rates on their level of experience, and to some extent on the number of clients they can reasonably expect to retain at those rates. Attorneys in large offices with high overhead may need to charge a higher hourly rate to cover their expenses.
It’s likely that if you interview several attorneys, the ones who offer the lowest hourly rate are the ones with the least experience—probably not what you want in the person helping you lay the foundation for the next chapter of your life.
There is another reason to be wary of low hourly rates. An inexperienced attorney who charges less per hour may also take longer to perform certain tasks in your case. Since your attorney fee equals the attorney’s hourly rate multiplied by the time spent, you may not only get a worse outcome with a less experienced attorney, you may pay just as much for it.
When you interview an attorney for your case, it is perfectly reasonable to ask how they arrived at their hourly rate—and pay attention to the answer.
While much of what you will pay for your divorce case comes from legal fees, there are things you can do to keep those fees as low as possible while still getting the quality of service you need and deserve. What’s more, an ethical attorney will be willing to help you to keep your fees as reasonable as possible. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your attorney, “How do I keep costs down in my divorce case?” They may offer you some simple and practical advice that could end up saving you hundreds of dollars.
One easy thing you can do is to gather financial documents such as tax returns, pay stubs, and other papers your attorney will need for your case. The less your attorney or their staff needs to track down, the less you will pay in attorney fees.
Another thing you can do is ask your attorney the most economical way to communicate with them. Sometimes, you just need to speak with your attorney, and you are willing to pay for their time. Other times, you can convey information with a brief email rather than a long phone call (and the email gives your attorney documentation of the communication).
A third way to keep the average cost of divorce down is to avoid conflict with your spouse to the extent possible. Fighting between divorcing spouses often leads to a breakdown in communication, which means lawyers doing more of the communication, sometimes in court; that adds up quickly. Keeping things civil helps keep divorce costs down.
In the same vein, the method you choose to resolve your divorce issues affects what you will pay. Those couples who are able to work out a settlement more or less on their own, using an attorney just to review the agreement and draw up the necessary paperwork pay the least. Those who need a little professional help reaching settlement, such as through mediation, pay a bit more. Lastly, those who cannot resolve their divorce issues with the help of a mediator or their attorneys must go to trial. They will pay attorney fees not only for the hours or days their attorneys spend in court, but the many hours of trial preparation that go before.
The best way to know how much your divorce will cost is to speak with an experienced Utah divorce attorney, discuss your situation, and get their general estimate of what you can expect to pay. If you have more questions about the cost of divorce in Utah, we invite you to contact Barton Wood to schedule a consultation.