The person who decides to file for divorce (“Petitioner”) is required to pay a filing fee to the Clerk of Court in the amount of $341. The other party to the divorce (“Respondent”) is required to pay a filing fee in the amount of $270. After the filing the initial divorce documents, the Petitioner must have the Respondent served with those documents. Service of process usually costs somewhere between $80 and $350. This means that the basic costs, before paying anyone to help you understand how Arizona Law applies to the facts of your case and draft the appropriate documents, is somewhere between $700 and $950.
Petitioner’s Filing Fee: $341
Respondent’s Filing Fee: $270
Service of Process $80 – $350
Total Basic “Costs” $691 – $961
Given the fact that you will likely have nearly $1000 in basic costs prior to the involvement of an attorney, it is easy to anticipate that a divorce is going to be a relatively expensive event.
The amount of money spent on an attorney is far harder to predict. Nearly all family law attorneys work by the hour. Hourly rates vary between attorneys based upon experience and skill levels. Although the hourly rate charged by the attorney clearly can impact the amount of attorney’s fees you incur throughout your divorce, that impact might not be as dramatic as it looks. This is because, usually, the attorney charging the higher rate will take less time to perform the same task as the less-experienced attorney (i.e. one hour at $300/hour costs the same as two hours at $150/hour).
The next factor to think about is, in my opinion, the reason it is nearly impossible to predict the total amount of attorney’s fees that a given person will incur in a divorce. How much will the parties fight and what issues will they fight over? Some disagreements may be unavoidable. Obviously, you cannot force your spouse to enter into fair and reasonable agreements that are consistent with Arizona law. All you can do is to attempt to understand how the law will apply to your facts and try to be completely fair and reasonable on your side. Reaching agreements with your spouse with respect to the division of assets and debts, parenting time, legal decision making, spousal maintenance, and any other issues that your particular case may present is one sure fire way to reduce the attorneys’ fees incurred by both sides.
Some good faith disputes will require a divorce case to go all the way to trial. Some cases will go to trial because one side refuses to stipulate or agree to a result despite the fact that their position is unreasonable. If there is a dispute where reasonable minds could differ as to the correct result, then a trial may be necessary, however, prior to forcing a case to go to trial, parties can save significant sums of money by attempting to mediate those issues. If, on the other hand, one party simply refuses to be reasonable, trial may be your best option and you may be able to get the court to order the unreasonable party to reimburse you for all or some portion of the attorney’s fees you incurred. Reasonableness is one of the statutory factors a judge must consider in attorney’s fees requests.
All of this said, I usually require an initial advance fee between $2,500 and $5,000 depending upon the issues that the case appears to present (i.e. children, business owners, spousal maintenance claims, high conflict, etc.).
If you would like a more case specific estimate of how much it would cost to retain me, feel free to call me at (602) 300-6777 to discuss your matter. I routinely have these types of consultations over the phone to save time and money and get the information to you quickly.