Posts Tagged ‘lawyer fees’

Communication and Consideration: No-Fault Divorce Revisited

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Everyone wants a cheap and stress-free divorce when they are ready to move on. Who can blame them when their marital circumstances are beyond repair? No one wants the agony and cost of fighting in a court of law over assets, child custody, or the myriad other factors associated with divorce litigation. Unfortunately, no-fault divorce isn’t easily achieved without some degree of tension in most cases. Again, there aren’t easy answers to complex issues, but the more that can be disputed likely will be, and costs often soar as a result. So what is the best solution?

As in marriage, divorce presents many challenges that lack a simple solution, particularly when children are involved. I cannot speak directly to the exact price other local lawyers charge for irreconcilable differences divorces (or “I.D.” as they are often referred to), but I can say that they will always be far less expensive than fault-based divorce, which often requires multiple open-court hearings and dozens of hours of attorney fees. The stress and turmoil of a legal battle are also not easy to avoid on some level, at least.

Even at a relatively modest rate of, let’s say $225 per hour and an optimistic time for resolution of, for instance 35 hours, the math gets scary quickly (225 x 35 = $7,875). When adding in court costs and other fees such as service of process and investigative fees, it is easy to see why the national average cost of divorce in 2017 was $15,500. We presented the relevant statistics in detail in our April 28, 2018 blog article and reference to a Nolo Legal study evaluating divorce costs. I highly recommend reading that in combination with this posting.

When recognizing that no-fault/irreconcilable difference divorce is usually less than $1,200, it is hard not to see the appeal. However, the appeal and low-cost of I.D. divorce has one danger that is often ignored by clients: If you don’t have 1. Communication, and 2. Consideration for fairness to both parties involved, you are most likely wasting your time and hard-earned money. It’s absolutely paramount that clients understand that Mississippi is not a “true no-fault state” at this time. In other words, you either both must agree to all terms of divorce, such as child custody and visitation, insurance issues, asset division, even alimony in some cases–or you must litigate. And therein lies the rub.

Our neighbor to the west, Louisiana, permits that a no-fault divorce be granted after 365 days of separation whether there is an agreement to divorce or not. While this seems an easy solution to a complex problem, it isn’t quite as appealing when we realize that issues such as child custody and financial matters still will require contested hearings unless the parties agree. Often this means that the cost won’t be any less than in Mississippi.

In 14 years of practicing domestic law, I can say that, despite making very clear to my clients that they may waste their money on attempting I.D. divorce, approximately one-third of them did exactly that because of overly-optimistic enthusiasm. I don’t blame any one of them one iota for trying the cheap route to divorce, but it is not without its downfalls. There are myriad factors that can derail what should be a simple divorce. It’s very easy to throw your money away because of optimism. As a former associate of mine used to say, “Haste makes waste”.

So, what is my advice? First of all, cooler heads usually prevail. The level of emotion and the amount one spends on domestic legal fees are strongly correlated. Therefore, 1. Make a checklist of all issues that require attention before contacting an attorney. 2. Have a calm, frank discussion with your spouse, and 3. Give your spouse appropriate consideration on all of the issues that need to be addressed–remember, you both start with equal marital rights. If you can do these three simple things, you will likely have saved yourself and your children a lot of emotional turmoil and cold, hard cash.

If we can give you assistance in determining the best path toward the dissolution of your marriage, please feel free to give us a call. I have 14 years of focused domestic law experience– we do not practice in any other area– and take great pride in helping find my clients the easiest and least expensive way out of tough spots. Even if a no-fault divorce is not an option, where there is a will, there is always a way.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi family law attorney who specializes in domestic case evaluation and marital conflict resolution.

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.