How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California – Bay Area?
Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer as to what a divorce will end up costing a person. But in this updated blog post we attempt to help clarify how much does a divorce cost in California. If you are going to file for divorce and hire an attorney to represent you, you should hire a “family law attorney”. Family Law is a very specialized area and the attorneys that specialize in family law tend to be more diligent at keeping abreast of changes of law and rules in the family law arena.
You hopefully would not go to an OBGYN to have an operation on your brain, so why hire any attorney to handle your family law matter? If you want the best possible outcome then start off by hiring an experienced family law attorney, not a tax attorney, not a bankruptcy attorney. Next, you want to choose an attorney that has been practicing law for a sufficient amount of time. Usually (but not always) the hourly fee will increase the longer an attorney has been in practice. This is not always the case so ask the potential attorney 1) how much of their practice is devoted to family law; and 2) how long they have been practicing family law. We charge on average $350-$400 per hour and our goal is to keep our hourly rate
Most attorneys require an initial retainer which on average is in the neighborhood of $3,000 to $5,000. A retainer is the amount of money that is paid to the attorney at the beginning of the attorney-client relationship. Some attorneys will agree to alternate arrangements if you ask and are able to articulate up front what you can afford and when it can be paid. The client should not look to the attorney to carry them financially. The attorney is there to process your legal matter not to act as a bank for you. Thus, you should arrange for financing on your own whether its by using credit cards, or loans from friends, family or a financial institution.
The most inexpensive divorce we process in a traditional attorney-client relationship (under the best of circumstances) is $2,500 – 3,000. They only go up from there. Court appearances greatly increase the cost of divorce so minimizing the number of court appearances can help keep your costs down. For an “average” household in Alameda and Contra Costa County, divorces can cost from $5,000-$25,000+ per person. If a party is unreasonable in their expectations or demands then the cost can increase. If experts are needed on a case then the cost will certainly increase (but they are worth it when they are needed.)
We recommend The Divorce Organizer and Planner, 2nd Edition by Brette McWhorter Sember, you can find it here: DIVORCE WORKBOOK. This divorce workbook will help you collect data and documents that you will need in your divorce.
Our honesty in estimating the cost of divorce is not for the purpose of putting off a potential client, or to scare people into hiring an attorney, but to help inform people. We truly believe that people operate more efficiently and make better decisions, when they are given advice or information that is as accurate and candid as possible.