Knowing the average cost of a divorce is like knowing the average cost of a house. In reality, there is wide variation, so that an average isn't really that helpful. Unlike with buying a house, however, spending more doesn't necessarily suggest you'll get something better.
Divorce involves certain fixed costs, typically filing fees that must be paid to the court. To file a petition for divorce, you will pay approximately $400. If your spouse appears in the divorce, he or she may also have to pay this filing fee. You may have to pay to have your spouse served with divorce papers, which typically costs around $50-$75. To get the court to take a particular action in your divorce, like grant temporary relief, you may need to file a motion. The motion filing fee is $100, which each party appearing must pay.
These fees can add up quickly, but the greatest expense in most Minnesota divorces is attorney fees.
Unlike court filing fees, you can exercise some control over your attorney fees. There are two ways in which you can do this. The first is to hire the least expensive attorney possible. This may not be your best option. Why? Because an inexperienced or less-qualified attorney knows he can't compete based on his skill or reputation. The only way for him to get business is to undercut other attorneys on price. He may charge less per hour, but will likely cost you more in the long run. A skilled attorney who works efficiently may charge more per hour, but will likely need fewer hours to get the job done, costing you less overall.
Therefore, the second, and smarter, way, to keep your attorney fees down is to work with an experienced Minnesota family law attorney who is committed to protecting your resources. You need not choose the attorney with the highest hourly rate, but be sure your attorney has the experience to work efficiently, so you get the most for your money.
Beware of divorce attorneys who bill themselves as “aggressive.” Many people make the mistake of thinking these attorneys will protect them better, especially at this vulnerable time. But the number one thing that increases the cost of a divorce is conflict. Conflict is profitable for attorneys: it leads to more phone calls, more motions to prepare and more court appearances. So an attorney who is aggressive stirs up conflict, rather than working to resolve it.
What should you look for instead of an “aggressive” attorney? You want an assertive attorney who will firmly and respectfully stand up for your rights, as opposed to an aggressive one who will be inflammatory. And again, experience matters: an experienced attorney understands the law and how they apply to your facts, and can let you know if your position on an issue is reasonable and if you can expect to prevail, should you choose to fight for that position. An experienced attorney can also help get you “unstuck” if you're in conflict, rather than perpetuating that conflict.
An experienced attorney will also help you explore options for keeping your divorce costs down. These include Alternative Dispute Resolution options like mediation and Collaborative divorce. Remember, the attorney who is worth whatever you end up paying is primarily concerned with your goals for the divorce, not lining his or her pockets. Besides, a smart attorney knows that ultimately, it's more profitable to achieve good results for a client as cost-effectively as possible, because satisfied clients refer their friends and family members. So perhaps the best way to know whether your attorney will work to keep your costs down is to ask how much of her business comes from referrals.
Want to learn more about minimizing the cost of your divorce? We invite you to contact Bloch and Whitehouse, P.A. at (952) 224-9977 to schedule a free initial consultation.