How Much Will Your Case Cost?

Every potential client asks us what their case will cost. It is a good and fair question. Since family lawyers work on an hourly fee basis (instead of flat fees or contingency fees), it is really hard to predict up front. Lawyers avoid disclosing their hourly rates and expected fees - but we are open about them. We even have created a Cost Calculator to help you understand. We can make educated guesses about cost of your case at a Consultation. In fact, every lawyer is doing that when they are considering taking on a case - they just keep the information to themselves. Again - that is not the way we operate. The factors that affect the cost of a case are:
  1. Complexity (30%)
    1. Divorces are more complicated than other family law cases because of complex property issues.
    2. Divorces with custody battles and the most complex and expensive.
    3. Child custody cases involving substance abuse, mental health and relocation issues are more complex.
  2. Level of Conflict (50%)
    1. Even a simple looking case can become expensive if one or both of the parties are determined to fight it out.
    2. There are ways to try to reduce conflict, but some just are and require a trial.
  3. Attorney Billing (20%)
    1. Hourly rates are important, but not as important as how efficient your attorney is.
    2. Even more important is the number of non-attorney staff being put on the case (which is often wasteful).
    3. Experience is important. Inexperienced attorney have a lot to learn on your dime.
    4. Many law firms ding clients with things like fax and phone call charges.

Be sure to learn about the 5 Steps in Every Divorce & Custody Case, including our video: 

 

Step One: Filing the Case

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.

 

Step 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)

 

Step 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. Read more about DiscoveryDiscovery or watch our video:

 

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.

 

Step 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 from 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. Read about the pros and cons of mediation or watch the video:

 

Description Estimated Costs for each Party
Mediators $300 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

 

Step Five: Trial & Finalization 

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. Learn more about Jury Trials or watch our video:

 

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.