While we love hearing from potential clients, we know sometimes you’d rather find the information you’re looking for without having to make a call. So, here are some of the most frequent questions we get and our answers to them.
1. Do you give free divorce consultations?
We do! Our consultations consist of one-on-one time with one of our family law attorneys. Case assessments take about an hour and involve us working to develop a timeline and a budget; assess the benefits, risks, and consequences of various courses of action; and arrive at an overall recommendation and plan. When you leave here, you will know what you can do yourself, what you need an attorney to do, and you should also leave a rough idea of what to expect. For more on what happens during a case assessment, you can read an article we have published on our website, called “What Happens During A Family Law Case Assessment.” You can also read “The Four Stages of a Divorce.”
2. How much will this cost? How long will this take?
It depends on the case. It shouldn’t surprise you that the biggest cost in a divorce is the lawyers involved. Bad lawyers make divorces expensive. Good lawyers get the job done efficiently. Figuring out who the bad lawyers are is a tricky business, but here are some red flags:
- Lawyers who work alone. They are likely distracted and overwhelmed.
- Lawyers who get distracted. They are overworked, and therefore likely inefficient.
- Lawyers who have fancy offices, fancy cars, and fancy suits – they may be in it for the money, not client service.
- Lawyers who seem like they are in a hurry or don’t care about you. They usually don’t.
The second thing that drives up costs is your expectations. Judges have certain perspectives that they default to when faced with a divorce case. Judges tend to want to:
- Stipulate grounds for divorce, rather than hear all of the ugly things that have happened.
- Divide the marital property equally.
- Divide the time with the children equally.
- Avoid alimony if possible.
So, to the extent that you do not want those things, expect your legal fees to go up.
The third thing that drives up costs is the emotion. Marriages are about love. Divorces are about money. At least, this is how the Courts look at it, and how they expect us lawyers to address the issues. It is natural for you to feel a sense of grief and betrayal when your marriage is falling apart. Most folks have second and third thoughts, and some even change their minds about what they want midway through. While we understand that on a human level, to the extent that you (and your ex) let those emotions color the decisions you make in your divorce is the extent to which your costs will go up.
During the case assessment, we talk about these factors, how to address them to save time, stress and costs, and make a plan. In that planning process, we come up with a realistic budget and some contingencies that we anticipate could drive up costs.
That said, there is a typical range of costs for people who hire us.
For uncontested divorces, fees usually come in at about $1,000, plus costs of about $500 – things like the $350 filing fee, and a $125 service fee. Only about 10% of our cases are truly uncontested.
Contested divorces that are resolved without mediation usually cost between $3,500-$5,000, including the $500 of costs. If people tell you a lower amount, make sure that costs are included; most lawyers do not price their divorces to include costs. Approximately 55% of our divorces are resolved without mediation, which is much higher than the average. An uncontested or “lightly contested” divorce takes 3-6 months on average to finish.
Contested divorces that require mediation usually cost about $7,000-$8,000. Approximately 90% of our divorces are resolved at or before mediation. These cases typically take 6-9 months to finish.
5% of our cases go to trial. Those fees are higher, ranging from $15,000-$70,000, depending on what issue must be taken all the way through. We still usually have those cases to court within the year, which makes us much faster than the Knox County average.
We view it as our job to keep as much money in your pocket as we can. Most lawyers take your money and do nothing, counting on the mediator to do the work to negotiate, so they can maximize their profit margin. We do the work in advance, so that either we settle and save the cost of mediation, or we are more likely to shock and awe the other side at mediation, or we are already fairly well prepared for trial if mediation doesn’t resolve the case.
For more information on what we do to save costs, read our blog, “How Much Does A Divorce Cost?” Please note that these estimates are not official quotes, and the actual cost of your case will need to be discussed in a personal case assessment.
If you would like to schedule a case assessment with Margaret Held or another Held Law Firm attorney, please call (865) 685-4780.