Archive for the ‘What Should a No-Fault Divorce Cost?’ Category

What Should a No-Fault Divorce Cost?

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

For anyone faced with the daunting task of ending their marriage, the realization that legal obstacles can be more than expected is essentially inevitable. Divorce presents significant emotional turmoil for everyone involved, children no less. Often, we receive calls from prospective clients rightfully wanting an idea of the cost of severing marital bonds. The reality is that divorce costs hinge on a myriad of factors, including the extent that the husband and wife can agree on particular issues (visitation, alimony, custody, dissolving the marital estate, etc.), the jurisdiction, and the level of animosity between the parties. Succinctly put, there is no set price that applies to legal fees for a “generic” divorce. No such creature exists, however good advice does exist and that often will consist of attempting to place feelings to the side and compromise for the sake of yourself, your spouse, and the children of the marriage.

According to a 2016 publication by CBS News, Mississippi is the 5th cheapest state in the nation in which to obtain a divorce. CBS reported that Mississippi residents pay on average two-hundred and twelve ($212) per hour for divorce litigation, far less than the national average of two-hundred and ninety-four ($294) per hour. Although being one of the poorest states in the nation affords some relief to the prospective divorcee’, the lack of a true “no-fault” divorce mechanism can present serious obstacles where the parties are unable to agree on custody, support, property division, and the myriad issues attached to the financial obligations and abilities of the parties. We have opined as to the need for a true “no-fault” legal mechanism largely due to the frequency of a party holding a divorce hostage without a payout. We feel that this tactic is closely tantamount to extortion and therefore unfair, raising costs for all involved.

Nolo.com found in 2017 that the mean (most common as opposed to an average of all respondents) divorce litigant pays two-hundred and fifty ($250) per hour for divorce litigation. According to Nolo Legal, “A few people reported that they paid their attorney as little as $50 per hour, and a few reported paying as much as $400 to $650 per hour. But the vast majority paid between $150 and $350 per hour, with $250 per hour being the most commonly reported fee”. Furthermore, in the same study Nolo Legal determined that the average person paid fifteen-thousand five-hundred ($15,500) for divorce when factoring in both fault divorces (litigation) and agreed divorces (in Mississippi a.k.a. “No-Fault” divorce). Talk about sticker shock. This figure is brought down by the relatively low cost of Irreconcilable Differences Divorces (“No-Fault”). The average cost is certainly higher when the parties must litigate various issues due to an inability to compromise.

Where does this leave a divorcing spouse? In short, costs for an agreed/no-fault divorce are sufficiently lower than litigating the issues that affect the parties. In my experience, the average no-fault divorce will take between three (3) and ten (10) hours of attorney time. When the parties do not have children or own real-estate or a business, it is feasible to obtain a no-fault divorce for less than seven-hundred and fifty dollars ($750). Complexity and thus time/cost is directly related to the complexity and the willingness of both to agree to compromise. Do not waste a substantial amount litigating over emotion or vindication of right versus wrong. Often it is much easier to shelve any negativity toward your spouse in the interest of saving money. Any amount spent is better on the kids’ college fund or a much-needed vacation.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic attorney who specializes in family litigation. He was admitted to practice in 2004.