Every potential client asks us what their case will cost. Since family lawyers work on an hourly fee basis (instead of flat fees or contingency fees), it is really hard to predict up front. However, we can make educated guesses about cost.

The factors that affect the cost of a case are:

  • Complexity (40%)
    • Divorces are more complicated than other family law cases because of property and alimony.
    • Divorces with children and the most complex.
    • Child cases involving substance abuse, mental health and living locations are more complex.
  • Level of Conflict (40%)
    • Even a simple looking case can become expensive if one or both of the parties are determined to fight it out.
    • There are ways to try to reduce conflict, but some just are and require a trial.
  • Attorney Billing (20%)
    • Hourly rate is less important than you would think.
    • More important is the number of staff being put on the case and doing duplicate work.
    • Also important is experience - a newer attorney has to learn things the hard way and by research.
    • Many law firms ding clients with things like fax and phone call charges.

Lawyers don't like to discuss their fees or projected cost. We do, because it is important to our clients. 

Phase One : Filing or Initiating the Suit

Description Estimated Costs for Petitioning Party Estimated Costs for Responding Party
Retainer Fee  this is paid upfront and is refundable.  Board Certified Attorney: $10,000 & up; Associate Attorney: $2,500 to $7,500  Same.
Filing Fee(s)  Original Petition: $300 Counter-Petition & Answer: $75
Process Servers $125 None.

Phase Two : Temporary Orders 
Next are Temporary Orders, which are the rules that each side will be required to follow until the case is finalized. This is usually the most heavily litigated phases of the case. Emotions are still high, clients are in a rush to find out who gets to live in the house during the divorce, which school a child will attend, who will control the money, etc. Another reason that Temporary Orders are heavily litigated is because Temporary Orders tend to become permanent so it is very important to get a favorable outcome for the Temporary Orders. 

Description Estimated Costs for each Party
Mediation before Hearing $3,000
Temporary Orders Hearing 

 

$5,000 to $25,000
Ad Litem/ Amicus Attorney

$2,500 (if necessary)

Phase Three: Discovery  

Discovery is the organized system in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure for parties to exchange information with each other. The purpose is to give everyone access to the same information, so that the case can settle with every party being fully aware of the extent of their estate. It is meant to create some transparency between the parties so that if they do in fact settle, each party can be sure that they have had all of the necessary material information to be able to settle in confidence.

Despite what you see on TV or in the movies, cases with good attorneys who have conducted discovery rarely have any surprises once they get to final trial. It is extremely rare that there will be a surprise witness or evidence introduced for the first time at trial. There must be some extenuating circumstances such as the evidence had just come into that party's possession and the party had no prior knowledge that such evidence existed before then. Even then, the judge will weigh the evidence's probative value against the prejudicial effect that it will have on the surprised party. 

Cases can be won and lost in the discovery phase of a trial. Failure to conduct appropriate discovery can result in a surprise at trial that be fatal to your case. Failure to obey the rules of Discovery can result in serious sanctions from the Court that can cripple or even destroy your case. Click here to read more about Discovery. 

Description Estimated Costs for each Party
Depositions

Deposition Transcripts & Court reporter : Approx. $500 to $2,000

Attorney Fees for Attendance : Typically 3 to 8 hours

Attorney Fees for Preparing to Take a Deposition : Typically 2 to 4 hours

Written Discovery

 

$2,500 to $10,000
Hearings on Discovery Issues (if necessary)

Attorney Prep. Time: 2 to 4 hours, depending on extent of other party's deficiencies.

Attorney Attendance at Hearing Approx. : 1 to 2 hours.

Phase Four : Mediation for Final Orders

Mediation is an assisted settlement negotiation. It is a process by which the parties attempt to settle some (or all) of the issues in the case outside of intervention from the court. Prices for each party in Mediation range from . Prices depend on the length of mediation and the quality/credentials of the mediator. The quality varies greatly, and some Mediators are better than others for particular situations, types of clients, and can relate to certain parties. Some cases don't require great mediator skills because they are going to settle whether there is mediation or not. Others are impossible to settle without the intervention of the court. The great majority of cases will however settle under the right circumstances, and in these cases the quality of the Mediator is important. Click here to read more about mediation

Description Estimated Costs for each Party
Mediators

$750 to $1,500

Attorney Preparation 4 to 6 hours 
Attorney Meeting with Client & Attendance at Mediation

Attorney Prep. Time with Client: 3 hours

Attorney Attendance at Mediation: 8 hours

Phase Five: Final Orders (Trial) 

Final Orders / Trial is the last phase of every suit. There are only two options: 1) agree on all of the issues  and you can then sign off on your final order; or, 2) go to trial and have the Judge issue rulings. Trial is a final hearing so that a Court can make those decisions for you. It can be beneficial for parties to settle outside of court - because settling outside of court gives each party the ability to customize their final order. A trial would put this into the hands of a Judge, which is sometimes a good idea. Click here to learn more about trial. 

Description Estimated Costs for each Party
Trial Preparation & Trial 

Jury Trial : 40 to 60 hours

Non-Jury Trial : 10 to 40 hours

Copies made for Court

Starting at approx. $650 upwards

All in all, you can expect to spend about the same as the other party though this will vary based off of the miscellaneous costs. The truth is, the total cost depends on you and the other party. The more you disagree or fight, the more the suit is likely to cost the both of you. Sometimes those disagreements are important enough to stand up for what you believe in, which means you are headed for Court.

family case cost