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Comparison of the Average Cost of Divorce Fees

Copyright 2006 Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator

Lots of clients ask how much their case will cost. It's hard to estimate a total for legal fees before a case begins because it's hard to know how long it will take. The single best predictor of total cost is acrimony. When both spouses are ready to get divorced and want to reach an agreement, fees generally stay low. Even if you have complicated the finances or a complicated parenting plan, solving your case is mostly about willingness to try to agree. And, any case that takes a long time in mediation would generally have taken at least twice as long in court.

These estimates are based on my 12 years of experience as a divorce litigator followed by 6 years in a mediation-only law practice. They're Los Angeles numbers, so if you live in a more rural area you can reduce these estimates by 30% to 50%. The contrast is still the same, though: you can save a great deal of money and time, as well as stress, by using mediation before choosing litigation.

Think: do you really want to spend your children's college education account, your vacation money, and the full value of your home on your divorce? Consider mediation as a lower-cost, lower-stress alternative:

MediationLitigation *Life Beyond DivorceSavings by Using Mediation Instead of LitigationTime Value of Money (Savings) Over 20 Years **Total Savings By Using Mediation
2 sessions at 3 hours each, $425 per hour*** plus preparation of paperwork and consultation with independent attorneys to review settlement options: $5100Low conflict divorce, with some negotiation but uncontested final judgment. Both spouses have attorneys who charge $425 per hour: $19,500Trip to Hawaii for two, two weeks, all-inclusive package including room with a view: $5000$14,000$26,671$26,671
Enough for almost 7 trips to Hawaii
3 sessions, paperwork, consultation attorneys to options: $6200Limited contested divorce case, no children, trial on common financial issues $65,0001976 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow classic automobile, fully refurbished: $15,000$58,000$91,682$91,682
enough for 6 classic Rolls Royce cars
5 sessions, paperwork, consultation with attorneys to options: $9000Contested divorce case which settles right before trial date: $95,000Undergraduate education, 4 years in-state tuition, California State University: $19,000$86,000$154,469$154,469:
enough to send 8 children to CSU for an undergrad college education
6 sessions, paperwork, consultation with attorneys to review options: $10,000Fully contested custody case which proceeds to trial $175,000Law School education, 3 years' tuition, Southwestern Law School, Los Angeles, California: $85,000$165,000$320,496$320,496:
enough to send 4 people to law school and buy each a Rolls Royce
8 sessions, paperwork, consultation with attorneys to review options: $12,000Fully contested custody and financial issues case involving child custody evaluators and forensic valuation experts for business, pensions, etc.: $250,0004 bedroom, 2 bath home with water view, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, $225,000$238,000$538,976$538,976
Enough for 2 houses in Ft. Lauderdale with enough left over to send a child to college and law school.

Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator, founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services in Los Angeles and the co-author of Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce,(Fireside 2001).
Ms. Mercer's office is located at 8055 W. Manchester Ave., Suite 201 in Playa del Rey CA 90293

She can be contacted by phone at (310) 301-2100 or
or Visit Web Site


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