One of the most common questions we get is, how much is a divorce going to cost? The answer is – it depends.
This is a difficult question to answer for numerous reasons. There are many factors that can affect the actual cost of a divorce in Arizona.
In the following paragraphs, we will discuss several factors that directly affect the cost of an Arizona divorce.
Defining “Cost” When Talking About Divorce
When most people think of the cost of a divorce, one is apt to consider “cost” in terms that reflect a monetary loss, e.g., “My divorce cost me $4,770 after it was all said and done.”
While this line of thinking is technically correct, there are other collateral costs to the divorce process that are essential to consider.
One example would be the amount of time a person expends on their case—whether this person has an attorney or not.
This “cost” could include the time spent researching, time spent reviewing documents, time spent thinking about the divorce, and time missed from work to appear for court hearings.
Another example could be the effect the divorce—or the way the case is litigated—has on others, including oneself, the opposing party, both families, and the children, if any.
It is important to consider “cost” from a big-picture point of view. Is there a need for child custody, alimony, or child support?
How is parenting time going to be settled? Is it a contested or uncontested divorce?
For purposes of this article, we will be discussing cost from a purely monetary standpoint, starting with filing fees.
Divorce Filing Fees
One cost that many people forget to account for in a divorce are the filing fees.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, for instance, it will cost the person who initiates the divorce action (the Petitioner) $349.00.
Most people don’t realize it actually costs money to file a petition for dissolution of marriage.
Costs of Hiring an Attorney
Like any service provider, the attorneys’ fees associated with hiring a divorce lawyer can vary depending on many factors, such as:
- the particular firm
- The firm’s fee structure (how an attorney or firm contracts with a client to get paid)
To the latter point, some firms may be relatively inexpensive from the outset.
An example of this would include the advance fee deposit (more commonly called a retainer) required for an attorney to enter into and get started on one’s case.
Some firms require a large fee upfront, while others may require a smaller fee.
Of course, there is also an hourly billing rate. Some attorney fees are less than $200.00 per hour, while others bill at over $400.00 per hour.
Given the disparity noted above, it is important for one to do their due diligence before making this important decision.
Finding the Right Attorney
When going through a divorce case or legal separation, you will probably want expert legal advice.
Like with most things, a high cost does not necessarily equate to a better service or end product.
For instance, just because one attorney charges over $400.00 per hour of work does not necessarily equate to better service than that of another attorney who charges $175.00.
This is where research comes in. There are many ways for one to research and find an attorney that is right for him or her.
The time spent is worth it in the long run.
One prevalent method of research is online search engines.
An individual can hop onto google.com at any time and type in Scottsdale divorce attorney, Scottsdale family law attorney, or any other combination of terms and be provided with myriad options of possible representation.
Another way to research is to ask one’s friends if they have had any experience with divorce attorneys and, if so, who they might suggest.
Ultimately, putting in the time to research and find an attorney that is right for you will save you time and money in the long run as it will make working on one’s case more effective, efficient, and pleasant during what is often a difficult time.
Litigating your Case
Now that you have found an attorney, paid the advance fee deposit, and are moving forward, what can you expect next?
The Discovery Process
The first stage is the filing process described above. Next, parties to a family law case will enter the initial discovery phase.
The discovery process is simply the process of producing and exchanging information with the other party on how you plan to maintain or defend against a given claim or theory of your case.
Both parties must participate in the discovery process and disclose all relevant information to the other party.
Most documentation can be obtained relatively inexpensively from a cost standpoint. The process, however, can be very time-consuming.
There are situations in which the discovery can get expensive in a hurry, though.
Such a situation could include when the other party refuses to disclose information, and thus you are forced to either issue a subpoena to obtain the needed records or file a motion to compel the production of the documents with the court.
There are costs associated with both of these options.
For example, costs that go with a subpoena may be as follows: a filing fee along, fees associated with drafting the subpoena documents, process server fees, and the costs for the subpoenaed entity to produce the documents (required to pay an hourly rate plus $.25 per page).
There is also a chance that the opposing party or the subpoenaed entity may challenge the subpoena, or if you file a motion to compel, that as well.
This means that one would likely need to litigate the legal basis of either claim.
In some cases, an expert may be necessary to help make your case for you.
For instance, if one party or the opposing party has an interest in a business, a piece of property, or a home that needs to be valued, an expert may be the only option if the parties cannot agree as to the value of one’s interest in said property.
This can get expensive very quickly. The above are just a few examples of things to consider when trying to figure out how much does a divorce cost in Arizona.
Filings and Hearings
There may be a situation where something happens, or the superior court requires an issue to be briefed, thereby necessitating the filing of a motion or statement to the court on any given issue.
This can get expensive quickly because most motions and other substantive documents are very detailed and set forth a specific legal basis for the requested relief sought.
One must accordingly spend the time and money to ensure the motion or other filing is drafted correctly.
Likewise, there is a possibility that the court will want to hold a hearing to make a decision on the motion. This, too, costs both time and money.
Another option that may be less expensive is a settlement. This option is typically favored by both parties to a case and the courts.
There are several options for settlement that each has various costs: Alternative dispute resolution services, mediation, issuing settlement letters directly to the other party, or conciliation services through the courts.
While these options have some cost, any of these options is likely much less expensive than litigating one’s case to completion.
Plus, settlement offers the additional benefit of allowing the parties to determine the conclusion of their case instead of a third party—the judge.
As one can see, there is no precise method to answer the question of how much does a divorce in Arizona cost or even the average cost of divorce in Arizona.
The answer to this question is it depends on the parties because the parties are the driving factor on how much the divorce process may cost.