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How Much Will It All Cost?
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How Much Will It All Cost?

One of the scariest things about hiring a lawyer is how much we charge. How much will it cost? When do I have to pay? Will you be billed for every email, phone call and letter? What is my attorney's hourly rate? What if I can't pay?

That depends. Factors that directly affect how much you will pay are as follows:

  1. Whether you have children or not (children=more expensive)
  2. Whether you or your spouse have a retirement plan that needs to be divided (drafting special orders to divide retirement/pension plans costs more)
  3. Whether one of you is financially dependent on the other (if maintenance or alimony is involved it always costs more)
  4. Whether one of you has committed fault (misconduct or fault costs more)
  5. Whether you or your spouse have a business (businesses cost more)
  6. Whether you or your spouse have a professional practice (doctors, lawyers, and accountants pay more to get divorced because of the nature of valuing his/her practice)
  7. Does your net marital estate exceed $1,000,000? (more assets=it costs more)
  8. How long has your case been pending? (the longer it lasts the more it costs)
  9. How nice are you to your spouse? (nice people pay less because they come to agreement much quicker than those who aren't nice)
  10. Are there allegations of child sexual abuse or issues involving mental illness of a parent or child? (always costs more than those who are considered normal)

The cost of a divorce ranges from $750-$75,000. The average initial retainer required is between $2,500-$7,000. The initial retainer is due and payable at the time that you want your attorney to begin working on your case. Before that time the only fees that are due are the initial consultation of $150 - $250 (depending on the circumstances).

Are you billed for every email, phone call and letter?
No. In general, clients are not billed for emails related to scheduling appointments, making copies, and clerical work. Oftentimes, short emails also aren't billed for. That being said multiple emails in the same day, emails that require scrolling down the screen to read or emails that require the attorney to do substantive work in order to answer the question are billed to the client.

What about phone calls?
If we couldn't reach you by phone we generally don't bill you for not being reachable. If we have a phone conversation we bill you.

What is the hourly rate?
Hourly rates vary by attorney and staff. Staff rates start at $125 per hour. Attorney rates start at $175 per hour and run up to $250 per hour. Our firm uses blended billing rates which means that if staff or associate attorneys can do the work for less per hour then we utilize staff and associate attorneys for work that can be done cheaper and use attorneys that have higher rates for work that can only be done by them.

How can I keep my attorney fees down?
If you absolutely cannot afford an attorney go to our Can't Afford a Lawyer page and consider drafting the forms yourself. You can get more information on drafting your own forms at selfrepresent.mo.gov.

If you don't want to draft your own forms but feel like you could represent yourself in court consider limited scope representation options. It is ethical for an attorney to draft documents but for the client to represent himself/herself in court.

Consider having your spouse pay the bulk of attorney fees and you just using your attorney to review settlement documents. At our office you can pay a consult fee ($150 to $250 depending on the circumstances) to have settlement documents reviewed and your spouse can pay his/her attorney for the bulk of the drafting costs.

Consider mediation early. Agreements reached early in the case generally result in lower attorney fees.

Save up your questions for your lawyer. If you call your lawyer 3 times in one day or send your attorney 5 emails in one day it is likely you are being billed for each separate email or each separate phone call. Save up your questions and either call one time or make a 15 minute appointment with your lawyer to get your questions answered at one time and in person. An in person meeting is definitely worth the money if you are paying your attorney $250 per hour.

Gather the documents your attorney requests and don't make your attorney ask twice. A lot of time is spent chasing down documents and hounding clients to bring in the same documents over and over again. Bring in the documents requested by your attorney early and make sure they are accurate. Offer to request any documents that you don't have and once you get them organize them before bringing them to your attorney's office.

Waive formal discovery. If you know what your assets and debts are and your spouse knows what your assets and debts are then waive formal discovery. Don't go through the process of exchanging documents to verify what you already know.

Request that your attorney ask for a pretrial conference or a face to face meeting early. The longer a case goes on the more it costs. Get a pretrial conference on any outstanding issue early or ask for a face to face meeting with the other side and his/her attorney in an attempt to cut to the chase and get to an agreement quickly. Every day your case is pending it is costing you money.

Download the necessary forms prior to your appointment! View some of our helpful resources for families.
Columbia Family Law Group, LLC - Columbia Divorce Attorney
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.