Across the globe we hear the common refrain that “freedom is priceless,” and yet in my world there really is a price attached to gaining freedom– a fairly hefty price at that for those who choose to litigate. The national average is that a litigated divorce/custody trial will cost each side about $20,000. Now let’s think about that– if the median household income is about $55,000 how can the average family afford a contested trial? The answer is quite obvious– most will not be able to financially endure a full blown trial. In fact, the normal, average, every day citizen cannot even afford having an attorney on retainer, which normally starts at $3,000. So what options are available to most people?
First, before doing anything drastic, most people are able to afford an initial consult. In that first hour, you should be able to share a summary of your story, and get an explanation of the law in your area, plus some advice on what options are available to you within your budget.
Second, most courts have a lot of forms available online and volunteers on staff at the courthouse to help you navigate the system. There are Self Help Centers and classes that are given on a regular basis to teach individuals the basics with respect to the court process.
Third, attorneys that are not part of a big firm may be willing to ghost write documents for you. What this means is that we will charge you only to draft the agreements or pleadings you need, without entering an appearance in court or negotitating on your behalf. Some of this work may be done on a flat-fee basis, which further reduces the anxiety for a client, for truly there is nothing worse than not knowing how much something will utimately cost you.
The fact is the more work you do for yourself, the less you need to pay an attorney. People seem to forget that back in the day it was only the truly rich and wealthy that had attorneys on retainer. Well, try to keep that in mind if you are embarking on a divorce/separation, for really it is a very small percentage that can afford to go to war with heavy-hitting attorneys at their side. While in most other aspects of life I would agree that freedom is priceless, I think when contemplating a split up, both from an economic and emotional perspective, you really have to take into account what is that freedom really going to cost you & what can you realistically afford?
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.