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Cost of a Lawyer

Old 03-09-2011, 09:22 PM
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Cost of a Lawyer

I spoke with one law office who told me I would need to put $2,500 down and it would cost me $200/hr. Does anyone know if this is reasonable or typical? I asked if she could give an idea of what it would cost given my situation (wanting full-custody and alimony); she said she recently worked with a woman that cost $20,000. I wanted to fall over. Any tips on how to keep the cost down?
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Old 03-09-2011, 09:32 PM
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I would say the best way to keep the cost down is to keep the animosity to a minimum. I know that's easier said than done when dealing with an alcoholic, but really, the more two people are out to "punish" each other, the higher the cost. The estimate I got was minimum of $12,000. I worked with my XAH and compromised a lot and we did it without lawyers. It ended up costing me around a thousand dollars. I was lucky that he did not fight me. There were times when I thought he would, but in true alcoholic form, he was all talk and no action.

Shop around, explore your options, and see if you can come to an agreement. It doesn't hurt to try.

L
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Old 03-09-2011, 11:39 PM
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Wisconsin is a very rough state to get a divorce (it takes forever, even when the parties are amicable) and it hasn't changed much since my first divorce there in '76. Yes, Wisconsin is my 'home' state and I still have family there, including a sister who got a divorce a few years ago, it took a total of 7 years to be finalized.

Do some contacting of 'different' lawyers, usually the first 1/2 hour or hour is 'pro bono' and have a list of questions to ask about your situation. That will give you some good info, head start.

Then look up some 'private practice' 'para legals' that can help you with the paperwork. There is a lot of the early stages you can accomplish without a lawyer.

As an alternative, if they all quote about the same, and if you have a job skill where you might find a job in Nevada, preferably the Reno area (the unemployment is lower there than Las Vegas) move, live there for 6 weeks to establish residency and even with children involved you can get your divorce much quicker and cheaper. Just a thought.

Divorce costs, and not only dollars. Since you mention child/ren there will also be counseling for them and yourself.

Also, please note, that 'alimony' is almost a thing of the past in most states. Sure a family court judge might order it for a year or two, so the spouse can go back to school to get a 'trade' so that they can be a 'wage earner', but ongoing alimony until the spouse remarries is very rare now.

Hope the above helps a bit.

Love and hugs,
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Old 03-10-2011, 05:47 AM
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That fee sounds a tiny bit on the high side, but not startlingly so. My guess is the $20,000 is for full jury trial, etc.

Now, what you need to know is that some lawyers will encourage you to battle over every little thing, and it racks up their fee considerably. Some will simply go along with your own wish not to give in on anything, and they make the same kind of money as if it was their idea.

The BEST lawyers will give you a good picture of how you are likely to make out if you pull out all the stops, but counsel you to consider settling for something less than you feel you want or deserve. And, as LTD points out, to the extent you can agree on certain issues with your STBX, there is less to fight about. You can also hire a mediator to help work out an agreement between the two of you. A lot depends on your individual situation and your bottom line on what you are willing to accept.

I got divorced pretty cheaply the first time, because my ex and I were able to agree on EVERYTHING. We each had our own lawyer to make sure we weren't shooting ourselves in the foot, but we told the lawyers what we wanted, and it was just a matter of drafting the paperwork. In my second divorce, we had no kids, few assets and debts, and I handled the whole thing myself (I happen to be a lawyer, but it was so simple anyone could do it when there was nothing to fight about).

Take your time, think about all your options.
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Old 03-10-2011, 07:33 AM
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My lawyer was $2600 down for the retainer, and when that was gone, $300/hr.

I thought he wasn't going to get a lawyer, but he did. We mediated, because that was going to be the easiest, cheapest way. It was sort of hard while staying NC, but the lawyers made it easier.

I ended up paying all the legal fees, which was slightly less thank $10K, and he got 4 years of alimony. I got both houses (upside down mortgages), the dogs, and the vast majority of the stuff. He kept his car and student loans. I kept my car and student loans. We have no children, which made it easier.

I think mediation was the best way to do it for us, and I'd look into it if I were you. And you don't have to be in the same room - ours was done by phone because he was *cough* in poor health and too ill to travel.
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Old 03-10-2011, 07:42 AM
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My retainer was 1,000$ and my lawyer was 140$ + 20% off hourly fees because I work in a law firm myself.

I chose a firm outside the city, which meant it cost me less. It did mean travelling almost an hour to have to go see the lawyer for the first few times, but aside from that, all contact was made via phone or email. The lawyer was recommended by someone here at work who was going through an uncontested divorce. She was clear, concise and always returned my calls or emails. I already had lengthy typed notes regarding XAH's behaviour with regards to our child, which helped my lawyer produce the affidavits and draft judgment orders quickly.

The custody proceedings took longer than usual due to a forgotten document. The divorce proceedings also took longer than usual because the clerk lost my file. Those delays cost me, but aside from that, the whole thing probably cost me 3,000$.
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Old 03-10-2011, 08:52 AM
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My first divorce was amicable. We drew up a draft of our separation agreement, (ironically on the night of our 13th wedding anniversary). We had one family friend attorney make it all legal and made some suggestions we didn't think of, (life insurance polices naming the other as beneficiary as long as the children were minors or of college age). Stuff like that. Then we each had the option of getting separate council to look over it but we just ran with the separation agreement as it stood. It was fair. That one cost me $1500.

My second divorce was a knock down drag out nasty mess. That one cost me $15,000. Can you guess which one was to the alcoholic? LOL!! Sorry.. that's not really funny. But anyway, the point is you can do a lot of research on your own but being amicable is always the best way to go IMO. There's no justice in divorce, and all a fight does is run up the bill and suck the life out of you.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:36 PM
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My total ended up being fairly reasonable. It'll be worth it if XAH ever pays the back child support. (Child Support Services could only make CS payments due to the date I filed, and I'd waited way too long believing his "I'll bring a check next time I see DS". My attorney recommended I ask for CS from the date I left XAH, and that's what the court awarded.)

However, part of what I paid was the flat fee for my first attorney. I will just say, the flat rate attorney would have been fine IF there hadn't been issues with custody, alcoholism and abuse, i.e. if it was an amicable divorce. I had thought XAH would just let me go, not the case at all; it was definitely not amicable. Also note: the fee had to be paid up front; there was really no reason for him to put in too many hours after he'd already been paid. It was a very expensive lesson.

I also think though, that the attorney I switched to didn't bill me for all of her time or work. For all of the work and help she provided, her bill seems a little lower than my estimates.

One family law attorney that I spoke to, who specialized in DV and/or abuse cases, had a $6,000 retainer and an hourly fee of $450, and noted a ball-park of $30,000 total. Ummmm, ouch. (This is NOT the one I went with.)

Edit: this doesn't include the costs for counseling for DS, just the legal fees

Last edited by theuncertainty; 03-10-2011 at 02:42 PM. Reason: as noted
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Old 03-10-2011, 03:14 PM
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You can also ask what the price goes to when their assistants do the work. In my case it was 50%.
Edit: $3k retainer and $350/hour for lawyer work.
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Old 03-11-2011, 12:26 AM
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Best price I could get for a decent lawyer was a retainer of $5K and $250/hour.
My divorce ended up being closer to $10K. And that's without going to trial.

You know why divorce lawyers are so expensive?
Because they're worth it!
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Old 03-11-2011, 04:56 PM
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I'll tell you what, 24, I am going to try to do it without laywers.
Am I crazy? maybe. Will I change my mind? Maybe.
At this point I *think* my AH will agree to everything.
I don't want any of his money. He won't want mine.
I think we'll split the stuff, and if not, he can have it.
We have no kids and no joint accounts.
I don't want his debt, but if he gives me half, it probably will equal what a lawyer would cost anyway, so what the hey?
Good luck to you as we move forward.
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Old 03-11-2011, 05:12 PM
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FP,

If I were you, I'd spring for a couple hundred dollars just to have someone give it a quick once-over before you file it. Just to make sure you didn't leave something out that could bite you somehow. You could make it clear that you are sure this is all you want, even if you have the right to more, and that you just want to be sure nothing in the language will be a problem for you.
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:20 PM
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Wow...thanks for all of the replies. It is helpful. We have a large amount of equity in our home and I put my retirement into our home when we did a major renovation (and I hope to get some of that back if that is reasonable in the eyes of the court); I put my husband through college when we were first married, and I hope to get some of his support when I finish one more year of college (I was recently offered a part-time job that will allow me to complete my college), I do not support myself fully at this point as I had been a full-time student in order to be able to support myself. I have a 15 and 16 year old at home and as long as my spouse is an AH I plan to have full-custody unless we can come to some other agreement (e.g. random alcohol test or similar). Those are my ideas. I would love to work out at least a portion of this with him but I have no way of knowing that he will cooperate at this point (his moods are all over the place at the mention of my leaving). It seems reasonable to say the larger his denial is the more irrational he acts. He is highly intelligent and highly functional. He has admitted to a problem but mostly acts like there is no problem (and I highly doubt he will admit to a problem in court).

It seems this is a bit complicated...my plan is to be patient and take it one day at a time. I have journaled for years now (off and on). I have photos and a few voice recordings.
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:29 PM
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Wow...thanks for all of the replies. It is helpful. We have a large amount of equity in our home abd I put my retirement into our home when we did a major renovation (and I hope to get some of that back if that is reasonable in the eyes of the court); I put my husband through college when we were first married and I hope to get some of his support when I finish one more year of college (I was recently offered a part-time job that will allow me to complete my college), I do not support myself fully at this point as I had been a full-time student in order to be able to support myself. I have a 15 and 16 year old at home and as long as my spouse is an AH I plan to have full-custody unless we can come to some other agreement (e.g. random alcohol test or similar). Those are my ideas. I would love to work out at least a portion of this with him but I have no way of knowing that he will cooperate. at this point (his moods are all over the place at the mention of my leaving). It seems reasonable to say the larger his denial is the more irrational he acts. He is highly intelligent and highly functional. He has admitted to a problem but mostly acts like there is no problem (and I highly doubt he will admit to a problem in court).

It seems this is a bit complicated...my plan is to be patient and take it one day at a time.
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Old 03-12-2011, 08:47 AM
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It seems this is a bit complicated...my plan is to be patient and take it one day at a time. I have journaled for years now (off and on). I have photos and a few voice recordings.
I think you are doing great here, 24 years.
I agree, try to find an attorney to talk to you specifically about what you have in mind.
Yes, definitely talk to someone about the equity in the house, child support (medical and dental) maybe spousal support for a limited time to give you time to finish school.
It might be best to have the info before talking to your husband.'
I have found the courts will want to work with a parent trying raise teenagers and get an education.
My completely from the seat of my pants opinion.
Reasonable always works. He wont have to admit his problem, it will be revealed.
If necessary, you have journals. Very helpful.

I hope the best for you and your children,

Beth
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Old 03-12-2011, 09:32 AM
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Another idea to save fees and drama is to either hire a financial planner specializing in divorce and/or to have a financial divorce plan done. There are a few divorce financial plan programs. One of them is "finplan." Divorce financial planners are usually less expensive than lawyers and they go right to the crux of it and crank the numbers by inputting different asset, income and support numbers into the program and then show projections for each party's likely financial situation for the next few years under different scenarios. Some really good family lawyers have the software and have their paralegal or assistant do the assessment and projections.
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Old 03-13-2011, 05:10 PM
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Just thought I'd share a book that helped me get started: Building a Parenting Agreement That Works: How to Put Your Kids First When Your Marriage Doesn't Last. It's an online book through NOLO.

Another route that may be helpful is to look for lawyers who provide 'unbundled' services, basically a per hour rate for certain types of legal help.
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Old 03-13-2011, 07:54 PM
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Nolo has some GREAT legal self-help books. I don't remember the name of the one I used when I got divorced the first time, but I have a couple of their books on home-based businesses that are proving to be VERY helpful.

I'm a lawyer, myself, but when I am out of my field, all I know is the little bit I learned in law school thirty years ago. I highly recommend the Nolo publications.
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