New York Divorce

How Much Will My New York Divorce Cost?

By Staff Writer

It can not be said enough: New York Divorce and Separation are not cheap. Not only will you confront the need to divide marital assets, address issues of child support and spousal support, but you will also need to consider the sometimes overwhelming legal and expert costs involved in obtaining a Divorce or Separation. Just how much it will cost, however, varies widely from case to case. New clients routinely ask for an estimate of how much they will have to pay in order to enter into a Separation Agreement, or obtain a Divorce. This is one of the most difficult questions for matrimonial lawyers to answer.

The difficulty in answering this question is not because of any gamesmanship on the part of your divorce attorney. There are many variables in determining what your fees will be.

There are many uncertainties and unknowns in any New York Divorce case. You may certainly be able to control the amount of time that you spend in consultations with or on the phone with your attorney and the amount of work that you request that your attorney do. However, neither you nor your attorney can control your spouse or your spouse's divorce attorney. While you may believe that your case is simple, your spouse may believe differently, or you may have a very honest difference of opinion on how your case be resolved. It is thus impossible to predict with certainty whether, and/or when, you will be able to agree upon certain issues and how much litigation, or "Court time" will be necessary. If you are unable to negotiate a quick settlement with your spouse out of Court, the costs of your New York Divorce or Separation will increase. Once a Divorce action is commenced, there are certain filing and other fees which must be paid, legal papers which must be prepared and Court appearances which your attorney must attend. These fees and tasks can get quite costly.

If a New York Divorce action is started, you and your attorney will have to attend mandatory Court Conferences. If the case does not settle, you can usually plan on attending, at a minimum, three conferences; a preliminary conference, a compliance conference and a pre-trial conference. Often, your case will not be the only one on the Court calendar. Although your conference is scheduled for a certain time, you may have to wait, sometimes for a long period of time, before your case is called and you actually appear before the Judge. Because attorneys cannot work on other cases while waiting with you in Court, the waiting time is billed to you. As a result, although you may only be in front of the Judge for ten to fifteen minutes, you will have to pay your attorney for the entire amount of time you were actually in the Courthouse and, in most cases, your attorney's time to travel to and from Court.

If your goal is to keep your costs down, you should always carefully read the Retainer Agreement. This Agreement should specifically spell out the tasks and time for which you will be billed. Also, keep in mind that some Attorneys bill different hourly rates and for different tasks. By consulting with more than one divorce attorney, you will be able to "comparison shop" on how you will be billed and how much per hour you will be billed.

More experienced divorce attorneys usually bill more per hour for their services and, if your case is complicated, you will want an experienced attorney. However, many localities will have a number of experienced attorneys with varying hourly billing rates. Some law offices have a number of individuals working on cases, including paralegals and younger attorneys, called associates. Paralegal time and associate time is often billed at a much lower rate than the time billed by a lead or senior attorney time. Thus, if your attorney's office utilizes a paralegal or associate, your overall bill may be much lower than if you simply hire one lead or experienced attorney.

Remember, you are a consumer. Feel free to ask any question regarding the terms of the retainer agreement, the attorney's billing practices and the specific tasks for which you will be billed. Asking detailed questions throughout the process will help you budget and assess the actual costs of your Divorce or Separation. Often, by asking such questions, you will obtain a much better estimate than if you were to ask your attorney, at the beginning of the case, "how much will my New York divorce cost me?