Divorce Costs and Tips for Minimizing Legal Fees in North Carolina

Divorce costs in North Carolina are difficult to quote.  There are many variables in determining the ultimate legal costs of divorce in North Carolina.  If your case is a simple, uncontested divorce (no property, alimony, child custody or child support issues), then your costs can be relatively low – under $1,000.  If you do have some or all of those issues, but can resolve them in a negotiated separation agreement, then your costs could be between $1,000 and $10,000 – Over 90 percent of our firm’s cases settle and fall within this fee amount.  If you cannot resolve those issues through negotiation, then the costs could easily exceed $15,000.

There are basically two types of fee arrangements in divorce and family law matters: (1) flat-fee services; and (2) time-billed services.  A flat-fee is a one time charge intended to cover the all of the legal fees associated with a particular service.  The other fee arrangement, and the one most frequently employed by divorce lawyers, is the time-billing or hourly-billing.  Under this arrangement, your divorce attorney will keep track of the time he/she spends on your case (usually billed in six minute increments) and bills you for that time.  Our family law attorney offers both flat-fee services and time-billing.

One way our divorce and family law attorney helps clients reduce the costs of divorce is by offering low-cost flat-fee services.  We typically offer two flat-fee services: (1) flat-fee uncontested divorce; and (2) flat-fee separation agreements.  Our family law attorney often quotes a flat-fee for drafting and processing qualified domestic relations orders and child custody/support consent orders.

Most of our firm’s fees are billed hourly.  Most family law firms require a “retainer” or advance deposit to cover their fees.  The family law attorney then bills the client (typically in six-minute increments) for all the work the attorney does for the client – these include: emails/phone calls with the client or opposing counsel, drafting documents, reviewing documents, preparing for and attending hearings, etc.  If you hire a divorce attorney on an hourly basis, here are a few ways to keep your divorce fees to a minimum:

  • Be organized with documents.  If you have been asked to provide your divorce attorney with documents, ask him/her how many copies they need.  Often divorce lawyers will need two to three copies of each document.  Some clients like to save their time and/or money by scanning documents to send their attorney.  Unfortunately, frequently that means that someone in the attorney’s office will need to print those items and organize them for the attorney.  Most divorce lawyer’s paralegals bill for the time needed to print and organize documents.  The best way for the divorce client to save money is for he/she to print out the appropriate number of documents and organize and label them before you take them to your attorney.
  • Be mindful of time when you communicate with your divorce lawyer.  You are encouraged to be in contact with your lawyer, however, there are some ways to keep his/her fees as low as possible.  Generally speaking, emails are the most efficient way to communicate with our divorce attorney.  Ongoing, back and forth emails, however, are the most inefficient and costly ways to communicate with your divorce lawyer.  Try to batch your email questions.  If you find yourself in a back and forth email conversation, ask your attorney if he/she thinks a phone call might be more appropriate.  Whether you are communicating with your attorney via email, over the phone or in-person, think through all the questions you want to answered.
  • Be reasonable in your expectations.  Ultimately you and your spouse control a large part of the legal fees in a divorce.  If either spouse is unreasonable in their expectations, then the process will take longer and may require court hearings – that in turn costs more in legal fees.