Let’s face it, divorce in Texas is never something that a person would find enjoyable. When someone is considering ending a marriage and has that initial consultation with a divorce lawyer, they experience a wide range of emotions, fears, and uncertainties. It is normal for a person whose marriage is ending to feel sadness and anger, and since no one starts off a marriage planning on getting a divorce, they are often filled with trepidation about what the process is and what to expect. One of the most common concerns that people considering a divorce in Texas have is about the financial aspects—specifically, how much will the divorce cost?
The cost of a divorce in the State of Texas is not trivial. The amount of money you will spend will vary depending on your circumstances, but you can rest assured that even the least complicated divorces are not cheap. According to a survey conducted by Martindale Nolo Research, the average cost of a Texas divorce in 2015 was $15,600. This number included fees of approximately $3,300, which are costs that are in addition to what you’ll have to pay a Texas divorce lawyer to represent you in your case. In Texas, the average total expense for a divorce attorney is about $12,400.
These averages only begin to scratch the surface of the divorce cost picture. The total expense of a Texas divorce is influenced by a multitude of factors, many of which can move the projected cost picture up or down by thousands of dollars. At The Law Firm of Wendy L. Hart, we understand the strain and uncertainty that worries over finances place on our divorce practice clients. In this article, we’ll try and unpack some of the factors that affect what you can expect to spend on your divorce. But, no one article can possibly unravel all the complexities of your situation. That is why, if you are considering a divorce in Texas, you need to have a consultation with an experienced, compassionate, and honest family law attorney with years of experience handling these issues. You can reach out to us at the Law Firm of Wendy L. Hart by calling (817) 842-2336 or by contacting us through our website.
Factors that Affect the Cost of a Texas Divorce
It is common for people not “in the know” to throw around terms like “complicated” and “simple” when it comes to Texas divorces. In reality, divorce is never simple or easy—it is just that some divorces are more complex than others. While you can identify an “average” cost for a divorce in the State of Texas, that is only a ballpark figure that does not represent the reality for most people. That wide disparity in total cost is based on a number of factors that may or may not apply in your case:
· Do you have minor children? The average cost of a 2015 divorce with children involved was $23,500.
· Retirement plans, family-owned business, or substantial marital assets between spouses: The more complicated the financial picture, the more work will be required, increasing the cost of a divorce.
· Have you or your spouse committed Fault? In Texas, the court may find a person at fault in divorce is they displayed cruelty to their spouse, committed adultery, was convicted of felony, abandoned his or her spouse for at least one year, did not cohabitate with their spouse for at least three years, or have been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years.
· You and your spouse financially depend on each other: Sorting out issues like alimony can be time-consuming in cases such as these.
· Going to Trial: Costs tend to skyrocket in divorce trials because of the time involved.
One of the questions that many of our divorce clients have up front is, “who will pay the attorney fees?” In the State of Texas, you can generally expect to pay your own legal costs as you move through the divorce process. There is an exception to this rule; if one spouse can show the court that there is a clear disparity in financial resources between the parties in the divorce, a Texas family law judge may require that the attorney costs be “equalized” at the temporary orders hearing. A judge will be particularly compelled to order this equalization if one of the spouses is in control of the family’s finances or has raided the bank accounts, leaving his or her spouse with no money of their own. That is why it is critically important that you have an experienced family law attorney to help you sort through these issues in your divorce—don’t let lack of resources or fear about costs stop you from reaching out for an initial consultation with The Law Firm of Wendy L. Hart.
What to Expect from a Texas Divorce Lawyer
Most family law attorneys bill on a per hour basis. In the Martindale Nolo Research survey, the average hourly rate for a Texas divorce layer was $300, but there is a wide disparity in costs—and quality. The hourly rate that you are charged will depend on who is performing the work at the time; many lawyers depend on experienced paralegal staff members to handle many of the legal tasks common to divorce proceedings. The fee for paralegal services is typically about half of the hourly rate of a family law attorney. No matter what you are charged, you should expect transparency; it is customary for law offices to provide itemized bills that explain each charge in detail.
It is also customary for Texas family law lawyers to charge their clients an upfront retainer. A retainer is an amount of money that is paid to an attorney to secure their services—it is essentially a down payment on your case. It is common for retainers in divorce cases to run $2,500 and $15,000, but the required retainer could be more if the lawyer finds that your case is particularly complicated. The retainer is placed in an escrow account that the attorney draws money from as they bill hours on your case. If your case becomes more complicated than initially anticipated, you may be asked to replenish the retainer fund. Any retainer funds unused by your lawyer are returned to you once your case concludes. You can expect the lawyer you choose to quote you a retainer cost at your initial consultation.
It is Expensive but Necessary
Divorce isn’t cheap. The Law Office of Wendy L. Hart realizes this, so make sure you clearly communicate your concerns and financial limitations at your first consultation. Thousands of Texans have walked the road you are on, and it is certain that there is a path forward for you too. The exorbitant cost of a protracted court battle is one of the reasons that we strive to settle our cases outside of the courtroom. You can count of the Law Office of Wendy L. Hart to be clear about the costs involved in your case and to keep you updated if the anticipated costs should change.