We get dozens of calls a day from potential clients seeking a “number” when it comes to the cost of divorce. The problem is that no two divorces are the same, which means the range in costs between one divorce to the next can be quite drastic.
Additionally, you have to consider what exactly you're asking when seeking a hard number. The cost of attorney fees and court/filing fees is a smaller scope than if you were to include the grand cost of your divorce process, which may include paying child support and alimony, splitting incomes, and selling your home.
According to a recent Forbes study, a divorce with legal help in the United States can cost anywhere between $2,000 and 20,0000, with the median cost being around $7,000. You can see how difficult it is to provide a hard number with that much variability among divorce cases.
But what about Oklahoma specifically? First, it's important to note that Oklahoma has one of the highest divorce rates in the country. This may be due to a few factors, such as marital age (Oklahoma tends to have a younger marital age than the rest of the United States - you can see the average age at first marriage by the state in this article here), financial stress, and heartbreakingly, domestic abuse. Oklahoma has the highest reported domestic abuse and the third-highest domestic homicide rate.
With that being said, Oklahoma hangs out around the National median of divorce costs, clocking in at about $9K without kids and $12K with kids. But even with an average in mind, each individual case will vary based on many factors - maybe even on some of the factors above.
For example, if you're in an abusive relationship, in addition to your divorce costs, you may need to file a VPO (victim protective order) against your spouse to protect yourself and/or your children during this process. Financial stress can drive up your costs as well. If you or your spouse have been irresponsible with money, deceitful, or hiding funds, more costs will go into discovery, mediation, accounting, and other means of settling matters. As you can see, oftentimes the cause of the divorce may affect the cost of the divorce as well.
In short terms? The more complicated the case, the more expensive.
Typically there will be a consultation fee. This initial consultation allows our attorneys to offer legal advice, decide whether your case is a good fit for our firm and if we have room in our schedule to take you on as a client.
If you decide to proceed with the hiring process, you'll be asked to pay a retainer fee. This downpayment secures your lawyer's future work and fees until more funds are required/requested.
After the retainer, you will be paying the hourly attorney fee for the attorney's time. How much time the attorney works on your case is truly dependent on the complexity of your divorce. A simple dissolution can take five hours of an attorney's time, whereas more difficult matters can run up twenty hours or more.
What are some other factors that affect the cost of divorce?
In addition to attorney fees - which are the fees you're paying your lawyer to handle the divorce on your behalf - there are other fees that can drive up the total cost of your divorce. This list is helpful to keep in mind as you pursue your divorce:
- Parenting classes
- Divorce classes
- Drug testing
- Custody evaluations
- Court filing fees
- Court transcripts
- Tax Advisor
- Expert witnesses
- Child support
Lifestyle changes that impact the cost of divorce
If you're the family breadwinner, alimony and child support are two major expenses to consider depending on your circumstances, particularly because they do not simply end with the divorce finalization process - that's where they typically begin. If you and your spouse aren't going to share 50/50 custody of your children, there is a big chance one of you will pay some kind of child support. The same goes for alimony - if you're the sole income of your family and your spouse will need to look for a job, go back to school, or enroll in training in order to begin building an income for themselves, it is likely he or she will be awarded short or longterm alimony.
You will also want to consider the cost of separate households as well. Are you going from two incomes to one, or even one income (your spouse's) to living on your own? If you're considering a divorce and you're currently relying solely on your spouse's income, you may need to begin looking for a job, provided you won't have other means of support. Then there is the home. Will you need to sell the current home with your spouse and purchase a new home? Will you rent?
Even with spousal support and child support (should they be awarded to you, if this aspect applies), you may still need additional income to support yourself and your family. And of course, alimony and child support aren't forever. What will your income-to-expense ratio be like once you're divorced? How will you provide for yourself? These are the questions many forget to ask themselves when going headfirst into a divorce.
Soft costs to consider
Outside of direct legal costs and support, there are other “soft costs” to consider: replacing items that your spouse got in the asset division, therapy for yourself or your children, setting up new phone/internet plans, taking on the full costs of things you shared together such as Netflix and Amazon, changing health and life insurance policies, and the list goes on.
There is also the emotional and mental impact to consider, which can be so significant. Many don't consider the reality of sharing time with their children - you will often go from seeing your children every single day to every other week, every four days, or on weekends only. In the beginning, the only component many people can see is the “getting out” phase - sometimes exciting, other times terrifying, but almost always blinding to these other impactful pieces that are only felt later, when the dust has settled.
Can I do it on my own?
There are definitely plenty of DIY divorce options that can promise as low as $200 for no children/uncontested cases. However, consider that - as hard as it may be to believe - your divorce can truly affect you for the rest of your life. Having a legal expert on your side to handle your court filings and negotiations, and to ensure you are being set up for the best possible future is absolutely worth the cost of an attorney.
Many, many times these DIY services fail for the simple reason we stated earlier in this article: every divorce is different. Using a service, rather than a person, means you're not getting a customized approach to an incredibly complex legal situation that should be handled with care, empathy, and top-notch knowledge of the Oklahoma court system.
The fact is thathiring a family law attorney can actually save you money. Proceeding with any legal process the wrong way may save you money upfront while costing you major dollars in the end. It's like trying to mend a broken bone with ibuprofen and a bandage - you may feel better for a bit, but the truth is that you need a doctor. Once that bone heals the wrong way, it's going to take a lot more work (and probably surgery) to fix now than had you gone to the doctor in the first place.
Our attorneys at Worden & Carbitcher have over 50 years of combined legal experience and successfully finalized numerous divorce cases of all varieties. We have exceeded the expectations of dozens of clients because our goal is to give every client the kind of legal excellence we would want for our own family members.
If you are considering a divorce, the first step is to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys. Call our office at 405-360-8036 to begin the process.
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