During many initial consultations with clients, one of the most frequently asked questions at the outset of a case is “how much will my case cost?” Unfortunately it is very difficult to determine an accurate estimation of the total cost to finalize any given case, as each set of facts in a family law case is unique and can change during the pendency of the divorce. This difficulty is due in part because much of what may unfold during the pendency of a family law case, and thus the time necessary to complete the same, is unforeseeable from the outset. For example, while you may choose not to serve formal discovery requests, if the opposing party requests the same of you, your attorney will have to respond. Additionally, there are certain issues and/or procedures which are outside of your attorney’s control that may increase your fees. For instance, some county courts have local rules making mediation mandatory prior to a requested final hearing, thus this is a known cost. However, in other counties without such requirements, individual judges may still order the parties to submit to mediation or a form of alternative dispute resolution prior to attending and/or scheduling a final hearing, thereby increasing the fees to finalize a case. Attorneys should be upfront with their client about the potential time and cost required to finalize their case.
There are steps clients can take to control the costs of their case to the extent that is possible. One manner to drastically reduce the attorneys’ fees is for the client to communicate directly with the opposing party. If parties are able to reach an informal settlement outside of the courtroom, not only will they save attorneys fees associated with trial preparation and attendance, but they will maintain control over the terms of the agreement. Additionally, if the parties are able to conference with their attorneys for legal advice, but communicate directly with the opposing party to reach the terms of an agreement, in what our attorneys term “kitchen table” negotiations, the attorneys fees will be drastically reduced than if two attorneys must undertake substantial communication to come to a final agreement in any given matter.
Custody Evaluations. In the event child custody is contested, either party may request that the Court order a custody evaluation be performed. If such is ordered or agreed to by the parties, then the family members will be interviewed by a psychologist who will determine what is in the best interest of the children with regard to custody and issue a report outlining his/her findings. Custody evaluations, while useful, can cost upwards of $5,000.00 depending upon the evaluator selected.
Business Valuation. In the event you and/or your spouse owns a family business or a share in a closely held business, which is not expressly set aside from the marital estate pursuant to a prenuptial agreement, then the business will need to be valued in order to properly divide the marital estate. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement as to the value of the business, you may agree or request that the court order a formal business valuation. Business valuations may cost upwards of $10,000.00, depending on the type of business and the business valuator selected.
At Hollingsworth & Zivitz, P.C., our team has the experience, the understanding, and the compassion to assist with your family law needs. If you have questions or concerns regarding divorce, mediation, collaborative law or any other family law concerns, please contact our firm at 317.DIVORCE or visit our website at www.hzlegal.com.