Lawyer Fees: How Do They Work?

When you decide to petition for dissolution of marriage (file for divorce) in Washington state, one of the first questions you’re going to ask yourself is, “how do attorney fees work?”. 

Although you know that divorce is the best solution to a difficult family situation, it’s normal to be concerned about fees and costs. When you’re preparing to live on one income and possibly pay spousal or child support, you must plan for all expenses, including legal fees.

Washington divorce attorneys typically bill by the hour and require a deposit against the anticipated expenses. Many firms will have paralegals assigned to attorneys, who charge much less, and this is helpful to offset costs and case management.

As a general rule, divorce fees depend on whether the dissolution is contested or uncontested. Below is an overview of both divorce types and how they can impact your legal costs.

Cost of Uncontested Divorce

With an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree on all terms, such as child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, and division of marital property. Because they are relatively straightforward, uncontested divorces are typically much less expensive than contested ones.

If you encounter obstacles while negotiating your divorce agreement, alternative processes like mediation or collaborative law can help resolve them without assuming the financial burden of litigation. If your spouse refuses to cooperate or makes unreasonable demands, your divorce will have to be litigated, which increases the amount you must pay in lawyer’s fees.

Cost of Contested Divorce

If your divorce is contested, it means that you and your spouse disagree on some or even all issues that need to be settled before the divorce can be finalized. Your lawyers’ fees can be difficult to anticipate because the final cost depends on how long it takes for you to reach an agreement or the court to step in.

Factors that affect your legal costs include:

  • How long it takes to reach an agreement.
  • The complexity of the issues involved. If you believe that your spouse is hiding assets, uncovering them can take time and add to the expense.

In Washington, both spouses are responsible for covering their own legal costs in a divorce, but courts will usually make an exception if one spouse earns significantly more than the other. If you have been a stay-at-home parent for years, you may feel you do not have the financial means to hire an attorney. In this case, the court may order your spouse to pay some of your attorney’s fees and litigation costs.   However, you must be prepared to pay your own initial attorney fees. You may have to get a loan or have help from family and friends. Remember, there are now two separate households to support. In this respect, the court will be more concerned with your housing, necessities, food, child support and maintaining the financial needs of the family. Accordingly, initially it usually always falls on the two parties to finance their own attorney fees and costs until other arrangements may be made and/or considered later into the case.

A reputable Washington family law attorney understands that clients who are getting divorced are already dealing with financial challenges and will work to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, without risking their client’s financial and emotional well-being. At Bliss Law Group, we offer a different approach, providing clear advice in an effort to save you money in the long run. For more information, reach out to us today at 253-844-4412.

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