Not surprisingly, we field questions about the cost of divorce in our office every day. Frequently, these queries come in the form of cold calls — an unidentified caller, without providing the most basic of information about himself or herself, expects our office support staff to provide an exact price for a divorce, as if he or she were shopping for some tangible commodity, like toothpaste. Perhaps even less surprisingly, none of these “price-shoppers” have ever become a client of the firm.
The process of providing a potential client with detailed information as to the cost of divorce necessarily begins with an initial consultation. We know that gathering information about the divorce process can be difficult and stressful, so we always attempt to schedule these consults within 24 hours of the your call.
During your consultation, we will gather critical data from you on a number of topics, including but not limited to: the disparity in you and your spouse’s ideas as to custody, visitation, and support of your minor children; the size and transparency of your marital estate; work and earnings backgrounds for both parties, for making critical analyses on the issue of spousal support and alimony; and, the level of acrimony currently present in your relationship, so as to have an idea if amicable resolution of ideas will be possible. Finally, we will discuss your personal goals in marital litigation, give you an idea of which goals are within the realm of possible, which are not possible, and what type of work will be needed to make these goals into reality. All of these factors and more will have an impact on the cost of your divorce.
It’s not just you: external factors will impact the cost of divorce.
Much of the cost of divorce can be controlled by the attorney and client: goals, methodology, style, etc. But be cautioned! The two biggest factors in the cost of divorce will be outside of your control. Those factors? 1) The degree to which your spouse is reasonable is his or her own expectations and/or methodologies; and 2) the degree to which your spouse’s attorney is reasonable in his or her expectations and methodologies. Neither of these factors are within our control, and should your spouse or his or her attorney decide to fight, tooth and nail, over every minute aspect of your case, expect the cost of divorce to increase accordingly. You are paying your attorney for his or her time, and every “battle” that is waged inevitably results in spending more time on your case. It is imperative that you understand this fact before leaving your initial consultation.
We don’t want to soak you: How we try to lower your cost of divorce.
Our business model does not depend upon charging our clients the maximum we can, and keeping your case going for the longest amount of time possible. Your life is too short for such foolishness, and ours are too. We want to solve your problems in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible, and deliver to you the results you seek, on-time and on-budget. How do we do that?
First, we will attempt to invite your spouse into the resolution process. If he or she feels comfortable participating in the process without an attorney, we will try to find a way to facilitate that. After all, money that comes out of either party’s pocket right now is really money out of both parties’ pockets.
Second, if full resolution isn’t possible at this stage, we will try to get your case to mediation in effort to reduce your costs. Sure, mediation is an additional expense, but that expense pales in comparison to duking your case out in front of a judge.
Third, we will not engage in extended, overblown negotiations in your case. Again, your lives and ours are too short to play “negotiation games” (you know the ones we’re talking about — asking for things you won’t get, lowball and highball offers, engaging in threats and coercion, etc.). You’ve sought the counsel of experienced divorce attorneys so as to avoid this sort of game-playing; if the facts and law are on your side, such tactics are unnecessary and can only add to the cost of divorce.
Finally, we employ qualified, experienced, compassionate staff, who are available to assist you at all times. We bill our paralegals’ time at a substantially lower rate than our own, but our paralegals are eminently qualified to assist you with many of your day-to-day questions and needs.
The Final Assessment: Your Cost of Divorce
By the end of your initial consultation, our Charleston divorce attorneys will provide you with an exact dollar figure that you will be required to pay to retain our services. We, like all divorce attorneys, charge retainers, meaning we charge our fee in advance, and bill against that fee until it is exhausted. Your initial retainer will represent our best estimate of the total cost of your divorce, meaning that, under ideal circumstances, you will not pay us another dime to complete your case. Again, this is our best estimate, and your total cost of divorce will be affected by external factors.
We represent a large and diverse segment of the Charleston community, and the retainers we charge reflect that diversity. In some cases, an initial retainer of $1,500.00 will suffice to protect your interests. In others, a retainer of $15,000.00 may be necessary. Either way, you will receive maximum attention and value for your investment in our services, and you won’t know where you case will fall in this spectrum until you’ve had a face-to-face consultation with us.