Divorce & custody costs

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Houston Divorce Lawyer

Edward Burwell

How much does it cost to get a divorce?

The cost of a divorce depends largely on the ability of the parties to reach agreements on issues related to child custody and property division. The thing to remember in attempting to estimate the cost of a divorce is that the attorney and members of his or her staff bill you for the time they spend on your case. Most attorneys bill by the hour. The best way to minimize the cost of your divorce is to reach an agreement with your spouse prior to meeting with an attorney.

There are various types of cases described below providing general guidelines for expected expenses in divorce cases.

-Agreed divorces

An agreed divorce is one where ALL issues in the case have been resolved by the parties. The parties should agree to all issues related to children and property. Marital property consists of any property acquired during the marriage of any kind. This includes electronics and household appliances, vehicles, businesses, real estate, collectible material, and other material possessions acquired during the marriage. This also includes retirement accounts of any kind owned by either party.

-Agreed divorce, no children, no property

This type of case is for couples who have not acquired any property during the marriage and haven’t had any children during the marriage. A divorce of this type typically costs $500-$750 in attorney’s fees, and the filing fee charged by the county in which the case is filed.

-Agreed divorce with children, no property,no child support order in place

If you are married and seeking a divorce, and have one or more children with your spouse that were born during the marriage, courts usually order a party to pay child support. The spouse with whom the children will primarily live typically receives child support. The other spouse typically pays child support.

All family law courts in Harris County require child support to be paid by one spouse as part of a final order granting the divorce. If it is necessary to obtain a child support order as part of the divorce, the cost will range between $1,500 and $2,500 in attorney’s fees, and the filing fee charged by the county in which the case is filed. The figures noted herein assume the parties have agreed to have child support paid according to the guidelines set forth in the Texas Family Code and provide all documentation necessary to calculate child support. These documents typically include income tax returns, pay check stubs and other information documenting the amount of income earned by the spouse agreeing to pay child support.

-Agreed divorce with children, child support order in place, no property

In some cases where spouses have been separated for an extended period of time, there may already be a court order in place requiring a spouse to pay child support. This type of court order typically comes through the Child Support Division of the office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas.

If there is an attorney general child support order in place, and the parties have no property to divide, the cost of the divorce should be in the range of $750 to $1,500.00, and the filing fees charged by the county in which the case is filed.

-Agreed divorce, no child support order, with property

In a case where the parties wish to agree to a divorce, but need to have child support set and need to divide marital property, the parties can plan on spending a minimum of $2,500, and the filing fees charged by the county in which the case is filed. It is impossible to discuss in more detail the anticipated fees the parties will be charged without knowing more about the property the parties will be dividing. Typically when parties divide property, various documents must be prepared in order to complete the property division agreed to by the parties. These documents include, but are not limited to:

  • Documents to transfer automobile titles
  • Documents to transfer real estate, including special warranty deeds
  • Documents to transfer financial accounts, including retirement accounts, and
  • Other documents necessary to complete the transfer of property agreed to by the parties.
  • Divorces without agreements/contested cases

It is impossible to estimate the cost of a divorce where the parties can’t reach an agreement prior to filing the case. It is safe to estimate the cost of a contested case at a minimum of $3,500. Because attorneys and their staff bill their time by the hour, the more the parties in a case fight, the more the parties can plan to spend.

What is the process for getting a divorce if my spouse and I don’t reach an agreement?

The process begins by filing an original petition for divorce with an application for a temporary restraining order. The temporary restraining order serves to set the ground rules for the parties to follow during the divorce. The restraining order is typically binding on both parties and limits the party’s ability to spend money, incur debt, dispose of property, and engage in harassing behavior towards each other.

The Court will set a hearing on temporary orders and issue an order for the non-filing party to appear in Court for the purpose of entering temporary orders. The party filing the case, called the Petitioner, has the obligation to serve the non-filing party, called the Respondent. The non-filing party should be served as soon as possible following the filing of the case.