Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cost of divorce in Missouri: Contested vs. Uncontested (or Non-Contested)

How much will your divorce cost?

The answer to this question depends mostly on how much is in dispute.  Here's a rundown of those costs - contested vs. uncontested

Costs of a contested divorce in Missouri

1.  Hire your attorney by paying a retainer.  Retainer amounts will be in the thousands, maybe $2,500 on up depending on the attorney.

2.  Hopefully your retainer, which your attorney will be billing against with their hourly work, will at least get you to the case being filed.  If so, your next expense will be the filing fee.  This varies, court to court, but will generally be in the $150-200 range.

3.  Once filed, your spouse will need to be served.  If your spouse is aware of the impending divorce, he or she may go hire an attorney, who will likely contact your attorney and tell him or her that service is not necessary, and that they will accept service on your spouse's behalf.  If not, and you have to proceed with service, you'll either pay the sheriff (usually around $50) to give it a shot or, if the situation calls for a bit more effort (i.e., spouse may be hard to find or is evading service), you'll probably need to hire a process server.  Process servers will vary in cost a bit and will charge for how much time locating and serving your spouse takes.  Count on at least $75-100 here.

4.  Now that your spouse is served (or has hired an attorney that has accepted service on your spouse's behalf), your case, in a way, finally gets moving.  It may not move quickly, but it is moving.  At this stage you'll mostly incur attorney fees.  As your attorney works on your case, the retainer you originally deposited will be billed against until it is gone.  At that point, you have to fill it back up so your attorney has a trust account full of funds to pay themselves with as they work on your case.  Other miscellaneous expenses will include paying for a court reporter, in the event depositions are necessary, and for any investigators that are required to properly prepare your case.

5.  If the custody of your kids is at issue, the court may appoint at Guardian ad Litem (otherwise known as a GAL) who will be involved throughout the rest of the process.  GALs represent the interests of the children in the divorce.  These are attorneys and bill by the hour as well.  So, yes, their hourly fees will be your responsibility.  If you have a court date that takes 2 hours, you'll pay your attorney for 2 hours worth of work and the GAL for an hour or so of their work (depending on how the Judge divvies up the GALs billable hours between the parties).

6.  After a few months (hopefully), but probably closer to 8 months to a year, your case will start to come to a close.  At this point, you will probably have had to refill the trust account a few times, and those miscellaneous expenses, although quite possibly necessary, have begun to add up.  If settlement talks have been unsuccessful to date, your case will be set for trial.  At that point, your attorney may give you the "this is how much a trial will cost vs. this is how much it will cost to settle the case on terms your spouse will agree with" talk.  It will be your choice to make, whether to proceed to trial or settle, but hopefully your attorney can give you an idea of what the Judge will do in the event of a trial and you can make your decision based on that info.

7.  You're divorced and have spent a good amount of cash.  How much?  Go Google "cost of divorce" and see what average figures you see.... $15,000, $20,000, some sites use figures as high as $100,000. Pretty expensive.

Costs of an Uncontested divorce in Missouri

1.  An uncontested divorce requires that you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all issues in your divorce - child custody and support, if applicable, and division of property and debt.  Maintenance/alimony, payment of attorney fees, and payment of court costs all must agreed upon for the case to be truly uncontested.  Using Linnenbringer Law for your uncontested divorce will cost you, generally, under $1,000 in attorney fees.

2.  No service of process, as your spouse will cooperatively waive service, eliminating that expense and speeding up the process as well.  You will have the filing fee, which as explained above, is about $150-200, depending on the court your case is filed in.  St. Louis County's filing fee is $140 for divorces, whether contested or uncontested.

3.  Your case is filed and at the end of the mandatory waiting period, your case is submitted to the Judge for finalizing.  No extra expenses, no hidden fees, that's that.

Contested cases sometimes cannot be avoided, and when they cannot, an experienced, trust-worthy family law attorney is crucial, regardless of the expense associated with hiring one.  However, many cases do not have to proceed that way, and really shouldn't.  Why should you and your spouse each spend $5,000 or more fighting over assets and debt that you may be able to divide with a level-headed conversation?  If at all possible, it's certainly a talk worth having with your soon to be ex-spouse, in my opinion.


Thank you for reading, happy new year, and please feel free to contact me for more information.


Gerald W. Linnenbringer, Missouri Uncontested Divorce Attorney


GWL@LinnenbringerLaw.com
www.LinnenbringerLaw.com

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