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Friday, February 1, 2013
How much does a divorce cost in Missouri?
The most common Google search terms that bring people to my law office's homepage are, in order of popularity:
As you can see, price-related inquiries make up 5 of the top 8 search phrases. This shouldn't surprise anyone I wouldn't think - the cost of a product or service is often the most important factor when making a choice.
The problem with answering the question, "how much will my divorce cost," is that it is almost impossible to answer. For most attorneys, you will be billed a retainer - maybe $2,000 to $5,000 on up - in which hourly work will be billed against. Once your retainer is "used up," your attorney will have his or her hand out again, asking you replenish your trust account. The newly replenished trust account will be billed against, with the attorney "paying themselves" as they complete their hourly work on your case. Each time the trust account is empty, you'll be expected to fill 'er up, so the attorney can continue to bill against your deposit and get paid for their work.
So in the situation of a contested case - where the billing is setup as described above - you can see how and why your contested divorce gets very expensive, very fast. If your divorce lawyer bills at $250 per hour, for example, and you have a court date - even a court date where the case is simply continued - you'll be paying for the attorney to drive to the court, complete the in-court work, and drive back to the office. That could take two hours, meaning you're down $500 for that simple, quick task. Your attorney needs to go file your updated Statement of Income and Expense? Expect a bill for the drive time, walking to court, going to appropriate floor to file the pleading, etc. It racks up fees quickly.
The alternative is of course a flat-fee uncontested divorce. I do hundreds of these cases per year, with the average flat-fee being in the $750 range or so. Some cost a bit less, some cost a bit more. Bottom line though, you know how much it will cost when you agree to proceed, making planning and budgeting for the expense possible.
If you or your spouse is a Missouri resident, please feel free to contact me for a personalized, more accurate estimate of attorney fees involved in completing your uncontested divorce.