What is the Average Divorce Cost?
The standard representation can range between $230-280/hr but expect to pay more for an experienced attorney that specializes in divorce/family law in Colorado.
Most people who go through a divorce in Colorado know that there are substantial costs associated with the process but some are surprised by how much the fees mount up.
However, in most cases, the legal costs involved with divorce pale in comparison to what you may stand to lose from a settlement gone wrong or a court order that is not in your favor.
That said, if you are facing a divorce now, it is useful to know what the average divorce cost is – and how you may be able to keep the costs down.
Average divorce cost in Colorado
You may be surprised to hear that the average cost of a divorce in Colorado is between $9,800 and $11,800, according to research from Martindale-Nolo.
This includes the cost of hiring the lawyers and/or mediators from the beginning to the end of the process, as well as filing fees, court fees and other sundry costs.
The good news is that your divorce could actually cost a lot less than this (even under $5,000) if you and your spouse are in agreement on the main issues, especially if you have ethical and competent counsel.
Remember that the figure quoted is an average. We’ve all seen the movies, where divorcing couples face a lengthy court battle over child custody and property division, especially in high-net-worth divorce cases.
These adversarial and highly contested cases do happen in real life and, while they are certainly not the norm, they do distort the average with total costs sometimes well in excess of $30,000.
Factors that impact divorce costs
In reality, the cost of your divorce will be determined by several important factors – most of which can be influenced by the approach that you and your spouse take to the process.
If you are like many divorcing couples, you will each hire a lawyer and enter the divorce process with the goal of settlement. This is nearly always preferable to an adversarial court trial. Not only is it cheaper but it is less stressful for all parties.
During the divorce process, your lawyers will work on reaching an agreement on the main issues, which are usually:
- Marital property division
- Child custody and visitation rights (i.e. parenting time and decision-making)
- Child support
- Spousal support (maintenance/alimony)
The cost of the legal representation will usually be the most significant cost in any divorce.
On average in Colorado, standard representation can range between $230 and $280 per hour but one should expect to pay more for an experienced attorney who specializes in divorce and family law. This is close to the national average.
It goes without saying that with a largely uncontested divorce, it will take less time to reach a settlement with the other party. This will help keep costs down.
Some couples might even be able to work out most of the details themselves and just hire a lawyer to draw up a legally enforceable settlement document.
If, however, there are wide areas of disagreement between you and your spouse, the process becomes more complex.
You may hand it over to your lawyers, who will require more time to work on an agreement. They may begin a discovery process of collecting financial documents, conducting depositions, hiring outside experts if required, and so on.
If you are not able (or not prepared) to negotiate, a simple divorce process may become impossible but there are other out-of-court options for reaching a settlement.
You may consider mediation or arbitration. You and your spouse would agree to hire an independent and professional mediator or arbitrator to either help you reach an agreement or, in the case of arbitration, decide on the terms of the divorce (which you agree to abide by).
If no agreement at all is possible, you are left with only one option – the most expensive one. This is a trial, which will incur additional court fees, travelling expenses, and so on, in addition to the cost of additional attorney time.
These costs can really escalate if the court battle is protracted.
High-net-worth divorce cases: how are they different?
High-net-worth divorces in Colorado are often more complex and, therefore, more expensive for divorcing spouses.
In many such relationships, there is a prenuptial (or post-nuptial) agreement. While this can be a positive and save a long, drawn-out divorce in many cases, in other cases the agreement is challenged. This can add considerable delays and complexities to the process.
During the marriage of high net worth individuals, substantial property and assets may be accumulated during the marriage. Spouses may even start a business together. Under Colorado law, most marital property needs to be divided equitably between spouses when they divorce. An issue that can cause your case to be more complex is if property was owned prior to the marriage or inherited during the marriage; this will open the door to legal arguments over whether or not this property is to be treated as separate (non-marital) property.
The division of investment assets, business assets, vacation properties and so on may require the sale of these assets or decisions made on who has access to them and is responsible for maintaining them, paying the associated taxes, and so on.
Such decisions add potential areas of dispute between spouses – and sometimes these disputes can become ugly and protracted.
Of course, they also add delays and expense to divorce proceedings.
On top of this, high net worth divorce cases may be more expensive because those involved may not be so concerned about running up high attorney fees as long as they ultimately get what they want.
A final point to be aware of with high net worth divorces. Because of the intricacies involved in these divorce cases, it is important to hire legal representatives who have experience in them. Not all family law attorneys have experience in high-net-worth divorces and hiring the wrong attorney can be a very costly mistake.
How to keep the cost of your divorce down?
Hiring the cheapest lawyer is rarely the best way to keep the cost of your divorce down. In fact, it is asking for trouble. You may have to re-hire or live with the regret of a poor settlement for the rest of your life. Settlements and court orders can be permanent, meaning if you get it wrong the first time you could be stuck with it forever.
Try to work collaboratively and cooperate with your spouse to keep attorney costs down.
However, be sure to also hire a competent divorce attorney to represent your best interests if mediation, arbitration or litigation is required. Remember, the goal is to reach a settlement that will best set you up for your future life apart from the marriage.
Start with a free case evaluation from a divorce and family law expert at Colorado Legal Group. Call 720.594.7360.