It is difficult to get attorneys to give a straight forward estimate on the cost of a divorce. Many attorneys are afraid that a truthful answer will chase away a potential client. Other attorneys try to attract clients by low-balling the estimate. We try to be honest and give you the real facts.
How much your legal fees for a divorce will amount to is very difficult to estimate. But it is an important question to discuss with your attorney at your initial consultation and frequently throughout the course of your case.
It is safe to assume that a relatively simple, uncontested divorce will cost at least $5,000. Depending on the complexity of your case, and how much you and your spouse can agree to, the price will go up from there. Some clients with very complex cases can easily incur fees that range between $10,000 to $20,000. That amount may sound a little crazy but you are paying for skilled professional services. There is a very real possibility that, in most cases, the assistance of a skilled legal team will save you more money in the resolution of your case than what your legal services will cost.
Here are some things to keep in mind when setting your expectations for legal fees:
– You will be required to pay an Advance Fee Deposit when you retain your attorney. Expect that fee to be $3,500 or more, based on the complexity of the case.
– Be aware that the Advance Fee Deposit is just to get your legal services started. You will be paying more as your case progresses.
– You will be charged for every contact with your legal team so plan wisely on how to use that time. Don’t waste your attorney’s time, or that of their staff, or you will pay for it. Time is money.
– Paralegal time is billed at a rate less than your attorney but it is still billed. Use paralegal time to your advantage but remember the clock is still running.
– If your spouse is unpredictable and difficult to reason with, your case will very likely be more expensive. It is an unfortunate reality that you have to plan for.
– There are additional fees charged by other professionals who may be needed to resolve your case. Those services might include accountants, psychologists, Guardian Ad Litem (Court appointed advocate for the welfare of the children), business evaluators, and real estate appraisers. If your case includes issues that may require these services you must anticipate the extra fees that will be in addition to your attorney fees.
– There are costs and expenses involved in every legal case. Costs and fees are in addition to an attorney’s hourly rates. Costs and expenses will, again, vary with the complexity of the case. These costs include such things as office administration fees like copy charges, postage, fax fees, delivery fees, and travel expenses; and expenses associated with Court filing such as filing fees and service of process fees.
– All fees and costs will mount exponentially if your attorney is preparing for a settlement conference or particularly in preparation for trial. It is to your benefit to choose your battles and make sound business decisions about what to fight out and what not to waste time on.
– Remember, your legal team is on your side. A level of trust and mutual respect is needed so that you can proceed on your case without spending a lot of time and money arguing with your attorney. Take time to listen to the legal advice you are being given and the reasoning behind it.
– Become knowledgeable about the process you are going through. (Download our Free Divorce Guide for Men)
– Do your best to make unemotional, well-reasoned decisions on both the strategy of your case and the details of your property and debt division and, when necessary, your parenting plan. What appear to be small amounts up front can accumulate to substantial amounts over the course of years. Stay focused on your goals, and always keep the big picture in mind.
– Review your monthly statement as a tool for evaluating the progress and cost of your case.
Use this list a starting place for your discussion with your attorney on what to expect the cost of your particular case to be.
Couples that have lived together in an intimate relationship may have the court treat their breakup in nearly the same fashion as the court treats a divorcing married couple. Formerly referred to as a “meretricious” relationship, the new term for couples that live together is “Committed Intimate Relationship”.
While the State of Washington does not recognize “Common Law Marriage”, the current court rulings controlling legal rights and obligations of Committed Intimate Relationship couples terminating their relationship is based upon the same legal principles controlling the divorce of married couples. Once the court determines that the couple has established a Committed Intimate Relationship, the court will enter Orders awarding a Parenting Plan, setting child support, and dividing the couples’ property and debts.
There is no set guideline or legal definition for what constitutes a “Committed Intimate Relationship”. The facts can vary case by case. There is no set minimum length of time for cohabitation. There is no specific required conduct or acts by the couple. In making a determination as to whether or not the couple has created a Committed Intimate Relationship the Court will consider:
– How long did the couple cohabitate?
– Was the relationship intimate?
– Was the cohabitation continuous?
– Was this an exclusive relationship?
– What was the purpose of the relationship and intent of the parties?
– Did the parties hold themselves out to the public as a domestic couple?
– Did the parties combine and commingle assets and debts?
Committed Intimate Relationships do not serve as a legal basis for awarding Spousal Support (alimony), or for ordering the payment of the other party’s attorney fees.
The term “Committed Intimate Relationship” and the legal principles applied to these relationships only apply to couples that have lived together for a length of time. These legal principles do not apply to short term, non-exclusive, or non-committed relationships. There are other laws and legal principles that control paternity, parenting plans and support obligations for children born to these other relationships.
During Divorce, you will have to disclose information related to your finances, property, and debts to the court. Compiling these documents before meeting with your Attorney will substantially help your case. Attorneys bill by the minute, so the more prepared you are before each meeting with your attorney, the more money and time you’ll save.
It takes a while to compile these types of documents, so if you are planning on filing for Divorce, or have already been served with Divorce papers, you should start compiling these documents as soon as possible.
Below are some of the required documents your attorney will need from you for your Family Law case.
Here are some documents you’ll need to give your Attorney:
– Titles for all homes, rental properties, automobiles, boats, etc.
– Pay stubs for the last 3 months
– Businesses assets and liabilities
– Any employment contracts, partnership agreement and lease agreement of above business
– Tax returns filed during the marriage
– Financial statements (mutual funds, annuities, pension/retirement account statements, etc.)
– Bank Statements
– Insurance policies (life, auto, health, disability, etc.)
– Inheritances, guarantees, gifts or bequests, personal injury awards
– Wills, trust, pre-nuptial agreements, etc.
– Inventory of personal assets (musical instruments, jewelry, safe deposit box contents, etc.)
Select an attorney with real experience in family law, and who focuses their legal practice on representing family law clients. Select an attorney with a history of getting the results their clients want. Select an attorney that listens to you when you speak, and understands what you want. Interview your potential attorney, and make certain you are comfortable with them.
Your personal comfort level with the attorney leads to a better working relationship and a better result in your case. A divorce requires a close working relationship for many months. You need an attorney whose opinions you can trust and rely upon. Hiring an attorney with an office in close proximity to where your case will be filed, or to where you live, will help to minimize costs.
If you’re reading this page right now, you probably need help. First of all, we want to say that we’re sorry. Divorce is never easy and we’re truly sorry you are now faced with going through this process. We’re here to help you.
Since you’re here, we can assume your wife has already filed for divorce. How do we know this? After years of representing Washington men in divorce, we are very familiar with how these things go. Statistically, women more often file first in a divorce.
Unfortunately, by filing first, your wife is starting out with an advantage. The divorce process runs on a strict timeline set by the court. By starting the clock on her terms, your wife has put you under a deadline with limited time to respond. She has also started the process with the court hearing her side of the story first.
You now have to respond to her claims and explain to the court what is really happening. You’re starting the game already points behind to the other team, with the first quarter gone on the clock.
If your wife has not yet filed for divorce, but your relationship has reached the end, there is no time to lose.
You can start the process by filing first and begin with the advantage
Whether you’re currently facing divorce, or must prepare for it, you need someone who can help. You need an advocate who not only understands the law, but also understands the special challenges men face in divorce.
It can be easy to assume that all Washington divorce lawyers are the same. That it makes no difference whether an attorney represents husbands or wives in divorce cases. A divorce lawyer is a divorce lawyer, right?
Wrong! It would be great if we could say that the divorce process in the courts of the state of Washington is always equal towards men and women. That the end result will be fair and equitable for the husband and wife. Unfortunately, on many issues men face an uphill battle in the divorce process.
Divorce Lawyers For Men understand the realities facing men in divorce
We don’t accept the outdated prejudice that the wife is the best spouse to care for the children or that she is guaranteed the right to live in the house. We don’t back down when the other side offers ridiculous terms and conditions. As a law firm dedicated to representing men, we fight these battles everyday. We’ve seen every trick in the book. We know the law and make sure the other side respects it.
Your very future is at stake. How much time you spend with your children. How much money you pay your wife each month. How long you will be making payments. These issues that you will live with for years to come will be decided in your divorce. Allow Divorce Lawyers For Men to fight for you in court. Make the right choices now for you and your children. Don’t live with regrets and debts for years to come.
End your divorce the right way by choosing the experience, dedication, and professionalism of Divorce Lawyers For Men.
The attorneys at Divorce Lawyers For Men have an established working relationship with Fire Fighters and Law Enforcement Officers unions and associations.
We understand the pressures of your job, and the restrictions caused by your work schedules. We understand the LEOFF retirement/pension program, and know how to protect it. We know the valuable contribution being made to Fire Fighters and Law Enforcement Officers by SAFE CALL NOW – which we support.
If you are active duty military you should discuss your marital problems with your commanding officer, and keep them informed of any significant changes at home and any legal actions. You should contact the JAG officer for advice on how to proceed in this jurisdiction. Generally, the JAG officer cannot represent you in a divorce, but they can provide helpful information and direction.
Divorce Lawyers For Men™ has law offices near all of the major military bases including Joint Base Lewis McChord, Naval Station Everett, Naval Base Kitsap, and Fairchild Air Force Base. This site also has additional resources.
One of the longest lasting financial consequences of a divorce, child support, is not set by personal preference or by whim of the Court. By Washington state statute, child support is calculated based on a statewide schedule adopted by the Legislature. It is a complex system. Many fathers need help understanding what counts as income and what exceptions are allowed for deviation.
Calculating Child Support
Child support laws in the state of Washington are designed to make sure that the financial needs of the children are met. Each parent has a legal duty to provide support. In most cases, the children are primarily residing with one parent. The other parent then pays child support to the parent with whom the children live the majority of the time. In many cases this means a father is paying child support to the mother of his children.
The amount of support is set by law and determined using the Child Support Schedule. The Basic Support Obligation is calculated based on the combined monthly net income of each parent and the number and ages of the children.
Unfortunately, no automatic formula can consider all of the relevant facts. The schedule only works fairly when honest and accurate information is provided. It is up to the parties involved (and their lawyers) to make certain that accurate income information is used, and that compelling facts affecting child support payments are explained to the court. Income and expense information must be thoroughly discussed with your attorney.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services provides an online Support Calculator (this link opens a new window). This resource can help you approximate your child support, but the projection is only as accurate as the information put into the formula. In certain special situations the court can deviate from the state formula calculations. You will need to discuss any proposed deviation with your attorney and build your case appropriately.
The court requires proof of income in order to determine child support. If the court does not receive adequate documentation, or if it believes a parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, it can impute income. The court then assigns an income level regardless of the parent’s current actual income. It is important to supply all necessary income information to court. If the court imputes income, that parent will usually pay more in child support.
If you are a father who is self-employed or your income is commission based, it is important that your income is correctly reported to the court. If your income is not properly documented and explained to the court you could end paying more in child support than is required. An experienced Washington family law attorney can help you prepare the child support schedule and make sure your income is properly documented and reported.
Can Child Support be Changed?
Once an order of child support is issued by the court it can only be changed through a “modification”. This involves filing a petition to modify with the court and appearing at a hearing. A request for modification can be made after the support order has been in place for one year or if there has been “a substantial change in circumstances” such as changes in income or loss of employment. Find more about Washington Divorce Modification.
Keep in mind that the government takes child support enforcement very seriously. There are massive consequences to evading child support, enforceable by law. These include state and federal income tax offset, liens on real or personal property owned by the debtor, freezing of bank accounts, orders to withhold and deliver property to satisfy the debt, passport denial, or seizure and sale of property with the proceeds from the sale applied to the support debt.
To read more on child support enforcement, the U.S. Department of Child Support Enforcement has provided this helpful PDF “Handbook on Child Support Enforcement” (this link sends you to download/view the PDF).
No one can truthfully tell you how much your divorce will actually cost. Even after being told the details of your case and the current agreements with your spouse, your attorney cannot control future behavior and changes in attitudes that can dramatically increase the cost.
We can advise you of approximate amounts incurred in similar cases, but that will only be an estimate if the facts remain fixed. Possible contributing factors include: court costs, attorney’s fees, Guardian ad Litem fees (when children are involved in divorce), whether you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on key issues, appraiser and accountant fees for complex property issues, special counseling costs if ordered by the court, and possibly your spouse’s attorney fees, if they are without funds.
There is no formula for setting spousal support / alimony. The court can make its own ruling based upon the financial facts and needs presented to the court.
This is an area where you will need to work closely with your attorney. You have to make certain that all the facts that will help you are properly presented to the court. If there are significant differences between you and your spouse regarding income, employment history, and ability to work we highly suggest you hire a lawyer to assist in determining the need for spousal support.
Divorce Lawyers For Men will not represent both the husband and wife. To do so creates an automatic conflict of interest. No lawyer can equally represent both sides of a contested situation.
Even if there is agreement in the beginning, disagreements can and do arise during the process. If the two spouses are certain that they agree on all aspects and terms of the divorce, then we will represent one spouse, draft all of the documents as directed, and the other spouse can review the documents and sign them if they are is still in full agreement. At all times attorneys at Divorce Lawyers For Men will legally represent only one party in the divorce proceedings.
If you have an amicable relationship with your (ex)spouse read more about self-represented divorce services.
The statutory mandatory waiting period for a divorce is 90 days after filing a petition with the court and serving the opposing party with the initial pleadings. If the parties are able to reach an agreement on all terms of the divorce (uncontested divorce), the court will grant the divorce after 90 days based upon the agreement.
In a contested divorce, it is difficult to estimate how long a case will take to conclude. If the parties have not reached an agreement during the 90 day waiting period, the court will assign a trial date which is typically within one year. The parties are encouraged to continue to negotiate while waiting for the trial date. If an agreement is reached, the divorce can be granted before the trial. Most cases settle without a need for a trial.
Because the court will seek to maintain stability and continuity in the child(ren)’s life. To achieve this, the court must decide who can best care for and communicate with the child(ren) on a daily basis. The court considers which parent can best meet the emotional and physical needs of the child(ren) through the separation, divorce proceedings, and post-divorce.
The court believes it is in the child’s best interest to grow up with the parenting influence of both the mother and the father. Even if the mother is technically awarded primary custody, a well presented divorce case can award a father significant visitation and involvement in all aspects of the childrens’ lives.
Yes, however, it is mothers who are most often awarded primary custody of the children. In the past, women were nearly always given full custody, and many judges find it difficult to change their ways.
The attorneys at Divorce Lawyers For Men have experience fighting for and winning custody cases for fathers. There is a heavy burden of proof on the father, however a well presented case with good facts will prevail.
There are more and more men asking for and receiving primary custody of their children. Courts are open to hearing these cases for good fathers, and granting fathers custodial rights or increased visitation rights. The issue is truly what is in the best interest of the child(ren). There are also a growing number of cases where joint custody is granted.
Washington permits do-it-yourself divorces (Pro Se) where one or both parties represent themselves. In cases where child custody, child support and property division are not in dispute, many people are able to proceed without the assistance of an attorney.
The required forms can be purchased from the county clerk’s office or found on-line. Even when the parties decide to do their divorce themselves, they must comply with the law and court rules. Legal representation is recommended where there is significant disagreement over custody, support, or complex property division issues.
No-fault divorces are considered a more humane and realistic way to end a marriage. Spouses who are divorcing usually are suffering enough without adding more fuel to the emotional fires by trying to prove who did what to whom. With no-fault divorce the court does not get involved in the emotional issues involved in the marriage.
The laws of no-fault divorce recognize that human relationships are intricate and family law is complex. The courts acknowledge that it is difficult to prove that a marriage broke down solely because of what one person did. The court will only consider the issues and terms of the divorce, not the misconduct or reason for the divorce.
We offer a 30-minute consultation with all new clients. We believe that everyone should have access to a good lawyer. After the 30-minute initial consultation, regular attorney fees will apply. The initial consultation is usually the best opportunity to determine if you need a lawyer or if this is the right time for you to go forward with a divorce, divorce modification, or paternity action.
It is a divorce in which neither person is required to, or allowed to, blame the other spouse for the breakdown of the marriage. The only basis for a no-fault divorce is “irreconcilable difference” or “irretrievable breakdown of marriage.” The court will grant the divorce, but will not assign blame. Marital misconduct is not considered by the court. Washington is a no-fault divorce state.
Before your initial meeting with your attorney, think about your concerns and goals relating to your family law matter. This will help you determine your priorities and keep you focused during your meeting. These questions are some examples of what your attorney will be asking you. Write down your answers on a separate sheet of paper and bring it to your meeting.
The more prepared you are, the more productive your meeting will be. And, if you want to meet with an Attorney about your family law case, fill out our contact form and we’ll set you up with a 30-Minute Consultation with a Washington Divorce Attorney in your area.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, prior to your appointment:
– What do you believe are the opposing party’s priorities?
– What is the status of the relationship with the opposing party? Is it openly hostile?
– Is it possible to have a constructive conversation with the opposing party about your family law issues?
– Is the opposing party represented? If so, what is the name of her attorney?
– Are there children? Is the opposing party pregnant? Provide name/birthdate of any child(ren).
– What is your occupation and monthly income? The opposing party’s?
– Is there any reason that the opposing party cannot work outside of the household?
– Who lives in the family home? List your assets, debts and obligations.
– Which issue(s) do you and the opposing party disagree on?