Skip to main content

How Much Will my Divorce cost? How Can I Pay for it?

The one question that everyone asks at the end of their initial divorce consultation is "how much is this going to cost?" And with good reason, because cost is a valid concern, especially for many of our clients who have lower or middle class incomes and lifestyles. Unfortunately, the answer is vague and unsatisfying because it depends on so many factors. I try to provide clients at the initial consult with some idea of what I expect the range to be for their case based on what I've learned during that brief time. But some of the factors are truly unpredictable, most significantly how much the other side wants to fight.

There are many ways to reduce the cost of a divorce. In some cases, where both parties are well-informed and willing to cooperate, mediation can be a cheaper option then hiring two lawyers for the whole process. Even if you both have attorneys, following the court Rules and providing documents and other information in a timely fashion can help reduce the costs. For example, just spending the time to draft a complete Financial Statement saves your attorney time having to walk you through each individual question.

Unfortunately, if your spouse does not cooperate with the court Rules and Orders by trying to hide assets, or delaying the disclosure of documents, the costs increase because your attorney has to do more work to chase down the information necessary to advise you. This can be frustrating for clients because it means they do not have control over some of the reasons that attorney's time (and therefore fees) can increase significantly. Because family court is a court of equity it is possible to request that the opposing party pay for fees that are due to their delay or wrongdoing, but often these requests are denied or ordered only partially.

So what do you do if you don't have the funds to pay for divorce counsel, or don't have access to the funds because your spouse controls the finances?

For those with significant marital estates, a recent New York Times article has highlighted the latest in divorce funding options: companies that invest in your divorce. Of course, these companies request a contingency fee in exchange for funding your legal fees (something which attorneys are not allowed to do in divorce cases pursuant to the ethics rules). Because they expect a contingency, these companies only invest in high asset cases, one of the owners describing their ideal case as one with two to five million dollars in marital assets.

For many of our clients and probably many of our readers, these figures are not realistic. However, if you cannot pay for a lawyer there are a number of options for you to still obtain legal advice. There are numerous legal aid services that you may qualify for, and there is a webpage that contains a directory of these services available in Massachusetts.

In addition, it is possible that the Judge will order your spouse to pay your legal fees if he or she has control over assets that would help you pay for counsel. This request will depend on the specific facts of your case and the availability of funds. You may be able to find an attorney who will take your case and file such a Motion based on a small retainer and the likelihood of receiving further funds.

Also, many attorneys offer a free or reduced fee initial consultation. Even if you are unable to eventually hire that attorney, the initial consultation could still provide you with invaluable information regarding your rights and obligations in a divorce case.

Finally, there is also a Lawyer-of-the-Day program in many courts in Massachusetts. As part of that program an attorney volunteers their time for the day to answer legal questions and help potential litigants fill out forms in the courthouse. If you plan to meet with the Lawyer of the Day try to get to the Courthouse early (it opens at 8:30 A.M.) because the line can fill up quickly on a busy day and sometimes they only stay until 3:00 P.M.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What is the purpose of the Divorce Nisi waiting period?

In Massachusetts the statutory waiting period after a Judgment of Divorce and before the divorce becomes final (or absolute) is called the Nisi period. After a divorce case settles or goes to trial, a Judgment of Divorce Nisi will issue and it will become Absolute after a further ninety (90) days. This waiting period serves the purpose of allowing parties to change their mind before the divorce becomes final. If the Judgment of Divorce Nisi has issued but not become final yet, and you and your spouse decide you don't want to get divorced, then you can file a Motion to Dismiss and the Judgment will be undone. Although many of my clients who are getting divorced think the idea of getting back together with their ex sounds crazy, I have had cases where this happened. In addition to offering a grace period to change your mind, the Nisi period has three other legal effects: 1. The most obvious effect of the waiting period is that you cannot remarry during the Nisi period, be

New Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines (2021): Big Changes, Little Changes, Typos & some Unexpected Results

UPDATE: The court has released a web calculating version of the 2021 MA Child Support Guidelines Worksheet .  It resolves some of the typos referred to below, but the unexpected calculations still apply. Every four years, per federal mandate, the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court revisits the Child Support Guidelines through the work of a Task Force appointed by the Chief Justice.  The 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines were recently posted.  They take effect on October 4, 2021.    If you are interested in a training on all of these changes to the new Child Support Guidelines: DMTA Presents the 2021 MA Child Support Guidelines Update  – Attend this event to learn the key updates you need to know for your mediation clients. Presented by Justin Kelsey of  Divorce Mediation Training Associates  and  Skylark Law & Mediation, PC . For a full comparison of all the  tracked changes between the 2018 and 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines you can download a pdf sho

Online Tool for Creating Parenting Plans

It is our hope that all families find a way to resolve conflict peacefully.  This is especially true when children are involved.  Divorced or separated parenting has many complications and the first is just deciding how to share time with a child from two separate households.  Developing a schedule can result in a lot of tension, especially if parents have trouble picturing how this new schedule will interact with their work schedules and the schedules of their children. To help make this easier, we've created an online tool for creating parenting plans that is simple and easy to use: We encourage parents, regardless of the process they are using to divorce, to use this form to assist in evaluating and settling custody disputes. The form allows you to choose between the Model Parenting Plan proposals or customize your parenting plan over a four week period by clicking directly on the form.  When you click on a section of the calendar it switches between Mom and Dad, an