The cost of a divorce in Arizona varies greatly. This is because cases are vastly different in the kinds of issues they have. Most attorneys charge by the hour. This is the fairest way to charge, because the client is only paying for the services rendered. Flat fees are not a good idea for family court cases. The reason is that things can change dramatically from one moment to the next, turning a simple case into a complicated one or a complicated one into one that can be easily and quickly settled. If you pay a flat fee for your divorce, usually either the client or the attorney will end up getting the raw end of the deal.
If the attorney quotes a fee that is too high in light of the work that was actually done when looking back at things after the case is over, the client will feel taken advantage of and upset at the attorney for “overcharging.” On other hand, if the attorney quotes a fee that is too low, that attorney is going to be very unhappy if it turns out that the case is much more involved than it initially appeared to be. Human nature then kicks in, and the attorney may not feel highly motivated to expend enormous amounts of time and effort beyond what is minimally necessary to do a decent job. Hourly fees are therefore by far the most common way of charging clients for representation. The total cost can vary, of course, based on many factors.
Some of the factors that may affect the cost are: how many witnesses need to be interviewed and prepared for trial; how much evidence exists and whether subpoenas must be issued to obtain the evidence; how many issues the parties are fighting over; whether the opposing party is represented or not; the aggressiveness of the other side’s attorney; the particular judge assigned to the case; whether the parties are fighting over asset or debt division or child custody as well; whether any travel is needed; and whether depositions will need to be taken by one or both sides, and if so, how many parties or witnesses need to be deposed. There are lots of other factors that affect the total cost of your case, but these are some of the more common examples. Another thing to consider is whether spousal maintenance being pursued, whether either party owns a business, whether either party has alleged that the other party is unfit to have custody because of drug abuse, mental illness, etc. and a variety of other reasons.
It is important to note that typically, the attorney will require you to pay an advance fee deposit (known generally as a retainer), which often ranges from $2,500 to $5,000, but can be higher in complicated cases. The retainer will be used to pay the hourly fees as they are incurred. Statements will be issued on a monthly basis to itemize the charges and show how much of the retainer is available. There are cases were flat fees may be useful. The most common situation is an “uncontested case,” which at our office is defined as one in which both parties agree from the outset on all issues and fully cooperate throughout the entire process.
Flat fees can be charged because it will be known in advance exactly how much work must be done to finalize the case and achieve the parties’ objectives. Flat fees are typically $1,500 to $2,000 in uncontested divorce and child custody cases.
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