If you are considering divorce you are likely frightened by the idea of having to seek an attorney and have no idea what fees to expect. Perhaps you have a legal insurance plan through work that offers discounted rates. Perhaps you have received an attorney recommendation from a friend but can’t afford his or her $10,000+ minimum retainer. Perhaps you can’t even afford to move out let alone hire a lawyer to sue your spouse.
So how much does a divorce lawyer cost?
That answer varies dramatically depending on what you are looking to do. Do you want to sue for custody, child support, alimony, property division, or just get a simple uncontested divorce?
What do divorce lawyers charge per hour?
That number also varies dramatically. One well known attorney in Charlotte charges $1,000 an hour and is proud to be the most expensive lawyer in the State. That being said the majority of family law attorneys in North Carolina advertise hourly billing rates between $150 and $400 per hour.
What is a retainer?
If you are looking to sue your spouse for custody, property distribution or support most lawyers will require a “retainer” to file a lawsuit as your attorney of record. A retainer usually provides funds for the lawyer to bill against as your case progresses.
How much is a retainer?
This typically depends on how many hearings your case may require. Typically a custody case takes 1 or 2 hearings as does an alimony case. A property division case may require a lengthy hearing depending on the value of the marital estate. Retainer quotes could easily vary between $2,000-$10,000 per potential hearing.
Do I ever get a refund of a retainer?
You typically do receive a refund of unused funds if your case requires less time than expected or if your case is settled via a Separation Agreement or Consent Order without the need for a Court hearing.
Can I make my spouse pay my legal bill?
A Judge may Order attorney fees for a custody or alimony case, but that is totally in the discretion of the Judge. That is why most attorneys require a retainer as there is no guarantee your spouse will be ordered to pay attorney fees.
How much is a consultation?
Consultation fees for a divorce lawyer in NC generally range from $50 to $300 for a consultation that lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
What if I can’t afford a retainer?
Some lawyers may be willing to work with you on a pay-as-you-go arrangement where the law firm prepares legal documents to be signed by you in addition to appearing at Court hearings on a per hearing basis.
What if I can’t afford an attorney?
If you can afford a consultation you should certainly talk with a lawyer simply to have a professional at least answer your questions. Make sure you prepare a list and ask lots of questions such as how the process works in your particular county and what a Judge may or not do based on the facts of your case.
Are there any free attorney options?
You could certainly call Legal Aid although they typically don’t get involved with Custody, alimony, or property distribution cases. Child Support Enforcement does handle child support matters if you meet certain income requirements. Mecklenburg County also has a self-serve center on the 3rd floor of the courthouse. Union County has some pro-se forms on the AOC website.
Do I really need an attorney?
If your spouse has an attorney you may be at a serious disadvantage representing yourself. Trying to compete with a professional in a Courtroom where you don’t know the rules is not a fair fight. If your spouse does not have an attorney you may be on equal footing, but that certainly does not ensure a fair outcome.