Divorce In Pennsylvania: Is The Price Right?

Posted in Divorce on October 12, 2016

People facing the prospect of divorce usually find that emotional pain is part of the process. And most are surprised when they discover the financial pain from the experience. Bills and fees add up very quickly when a person pays a divorce lawyer by the hour.

How High Can The Bills Go?

The Billing Rates and Practices Survey, a 2009 study of nationwide legal billing rates conducted by ALM Legal Intelligence, revealed some eye-opening numbers about what small and mid-sized legal firms charge. According to the research, the average billing rate nationally is $284 per hour.

  • Law firms with two to eight attorneys average a billing rate of $262 per hour
  • Law firms with 76 to 150 attorneys average a billing rate of $295 per hour
  • Law firms with more than 150 lawyers average $333 per hour

The average billing rate for all law firms in the Northeast: $319 per hour. In the West, firms average $296 per hour; in the South it is $276 per hour; and in the Midwest, the average hourly billing rate is $264. Moreover, regardless of the number of lawyers in a firm, an attorney may charge an even higher hourly rate because of his or her skill level, years of experience or reputation.

On top of those hefty fees are hourly rates for paralegals and other support staff. According to the 2008 National Utilization and Compensation Survey report produced by the National Association of Legal Assistants, the average billing rate of certified legal assistants and paralegals was $104.

As you can see, those rates can quickly result in large legal bills. Reliable figures are difficult to obtain, but according to Forbes.com, as of 2006 the average cost of a divorce in the U.S. ranged from $15,000 to $30,000. Collaborative law, frequently billed as an alternative to contested divorce, is often in the $10,000 to $15,000 range, according to an ABC News article published in 2007.

It should be noted that even those hefty attorney and support staff fees don’t begin to cover the entire cost of divorce. There are court costs to consider, too: a two-day trial can cost as much as $25,000.

Add it all up, and you might well pay $50,000 or more for a divorce. Bear in mind that none of these fees and costs cover what you may be ordered by the Court to pay your spouse in cash and/or property.

Alternatives To Billing Rates

There is an alternative to pricey divorce lawyers and expensive court dates, however. In Pennsylvania, married couples may obtain a simple, no-fault, uncontested divorce in which no blame is assessed by a court and lawyers are paid a low, flat fee. These uncontested divorces may include issues such as child custody, child support, property division, alimony and other issues which the couple has already settled without the aid of an attorney. Then, a low-cost divorce lawyer can prepare and file all the documents, enabling clients to get faster closure at a significantly lower cost, financially and emotionally, than they would if they went through lengthy, high-priced litigation.

Consider Your Options

For a couple facing divorce in Pennsylvania, the options are clear. They can endure an expensive, stressful battle in court, making no one but their lawyers happy, or they can end their marriage with a simple, no-fault, uncontested divorce at a fixed, low cost with minimum stress.

Before you hire a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer, consider all your options, including the costs and benefits of a simple no-fault, uncontested divorce.

Same-Sex Divorce In Pennsylvania

As you may know, Pennsylvania now recognizes and allows same-sex marriage. Accordingly, the Court has advised that a divorce can be granted to a same-sex couple married in Pennsylvania or in any other jurisdiction, state or country where the marriage was legal at the time of the ceremony.