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What will a divorce cost and how long will it take?
September 11, 2018
What will a divorce in New York Cost?
The most frequently asked question I get from prospective clients is “how much will a divorce cost in New York?”. The second most frequently asked question is “how long will it take to get a divorce?”. This article will deal with both questions because one question is inextricably tied to the other. My canned response to these questions is that it always it depends on the case because there are multiple variables that come into play and an attorney can not really guarantee a fee as litigation is hazardous.
For instance, if the attorney on the other side is aggressive, or if your spouse is unfair, pushy, or just plain vindictive and spiteful, then in order to secure a fair disposition of your case you might have to take your case all the way to a trial or even to an appeal if you do not like the results of the lower court because the lower court erred in its decision.
But there are statistics on hand that might be able to give you a better prospective as to costs but you can not always rely upon them. In my experience only, however, typically a divorce that has not too much at stake can be resolved for under $15,000.00, but if there are multiple issues of property distribution, child custody and support then your fee can sky rocket from there. If you are going to trial and your issues entail child custody, and distribution of multiple complicated properties and funds, then expect to add on at least $100,000.00 to your bill for trial preparation and the trial itself, and it could be more. In a Forbes article in 2006 I read once that divorces that are contested range anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000.
Then there are the added costs of court expenses such as expert evaluations of real property, pensions and businesses, stenographic costs, and courier fees.
Lastly, you have the added expenses of court filing fees, such as the purchase of an index number which is $210.00, the RJI fee of $95.00 and payment for the Note of Issue fee. If you file a motion each filing fee for each of these motions cost $45.00. To obtain certified copies of any document you will have to pay the clerk of the county by the page, and you will certainly want a certified copy of the divorce Judgment.
Attorneys charge by the hour, and the number of hours they spend on the case will determine your ultimate fee. The hourly rate of each attorney depends upon their geographical location and their experience in matrimonial law. The rates vary dramatically but surveys tend to suggest that the hourly rate of a divorce lawyer in New York spans between $300.00 per hour to as high as $850.00 or $900.00 per hour. Because attorneys charge by the hour, you will tend to find that a Manhattan divorce lawyer charges on the higher end of the spectrum because their overhead is higher than an attorney in a more rural location.
As to duration, the average divorce case will take under a year to complete but if your spouse is recalcitrant in turning over documents you need to settle your case it could take longer. Furthermore, if there are children in your family and you have to decide issues of child custody or visitation then these cases tend to be costlier because it takes a lot longer to sort out.
Another factor is the size of the marital estate. The more money there is to fight over the more attorneys’ fees you can expect to pay because you want a fair and just financial settlement and the way to get there sometimes results in the exchange of not only net worth statements but also back up financial materials that you must either get from your spouse or else subpoena. These discovery processes take time and money before they are completed. Once this part of your case is completed the attorneys will exchange settlement proposals and argue over the details.
If nothing can be resolved between counsel then the Court likes to either settle cases through court conference meetings or else send them to trial after nine months and there are judicial guidelines that the courts follow to ensure that your case does not linger. In my experience, most of my cases settle under or about the one-year mark but I have seen cases go as long as three years, or longer. The more issues you can resolve with your spouse the shorter and less costly your divorce will become because there will be less attorney involvement.
From this article you can see that if you can find attorneys who accept flat fees it might be the way to go, but it is not always a feasible option.
Given the expense of a contested divorce you might also consider alternative approaches such as mediation or collaborative divorce.
Lastly, avoid fighting over grounds from divorce. It rarely impacts the financial or custody settlement and you will find yourself trying a case for nothing.
By: Lisa Beth Older
Your Manhattan Divorce Lawyer
Disclaimer: The ideas espoused in this article are solely the opinion of this writer and should not be relied upon in deciding on your divorce case. Seek your own attorney for estimates as to your case.