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What Will My Divorce Cost?

It is impossible to predict the exact total cost of a divorce.

Every divorce is different and trying to give an estimate of the total cost is something that most good lawyers will not do. Why? Lawyers really do not have any idea what the parties may end up fighting over. It is this conflict that determines the total cost, more than anything else.

While there are issues that arise causing an increase in the cost of your divorce, the most common are:

  • One party just doesn’t want to get divorced;
  • Debts and/or assets of which the other spouse wasn’t aware “appear” —  or assets that the other spouse believed to exist do not “appear” and are believed to be hidden; or
  • One or both parties are afraid that the other party is trying to turn the children against him or her; or
  • One or both parties are highly emotional about the divorce, for various reasons.

These — and other issues — can affect the cost of your divorce in various ways.

At the Law Office of Lori A. Michaud, P.C., we will provide you with a retainer amount required to proceed on your behalf. A retainer is an advance payment of fees for work that we will perform in your matter. The retainer works like a deposit. Upon receipt, funds are deposited into a trust account, separate from our law office’s operating account, until fees are earned or costs are incurred. We provide regular monthly billing statements that describe the work we have done to earn our fee, how much was transferred to pay fees and expenses, and your remaining trust balance.

While the retainer amount is more than sufficient to cover fees and costs incurred in some cases, in other cases it is only part of the cost and may need to be replenished. In the event that there are funds left in trust at the end of your case, we will issue you a check upon the closure of your file with this office, within 30 days of the conclusion of your matter. On the other hand, if your retainer turns out to be insufficient, we will continue to bill you on a month to month basis and may require that you replenish your retainer. If your matter requires a trial to resolve, you can anticipate being required to post a trial retainer prior to our commencement of trial preparations.

Conflict between the parties is the main determinant of the the total cost.

Low Conflict divorce cases are typically the least costly and most straight forward. This level of divorce usually consists of parties with no minor children, zero to minimal assets and/or debts, and amicable communication between the parties. Even when a divorce starts as “low conflict,” once the parties start dealing with the realities their divorce under of Virginia law, the divorce can become “high conflict” (or higher conflict) as one party or another asserts their perceived rights.

You may anticipate a retainer of $500 – $1,500 at the Law Office of Lori A. Michaud, P.C.

Average Conflict divorce consists of families with children and/or minimal, easily divided assets and/or debts. Not only is the potential for conflict greater because there are more issues, but there is additional paperwork required  — and emotions generally run higher — when children are involved. Parenting plans, child support worksheets and support orders need to be prepared. When there are assets and/or debts, these items need to be valued and apportioned between the parties.

There is also likely to be a higher level of counseling required for a divorce that involves children. Many times divorcing parents do not know how to handle the shared decision making or the transferring of the children back and forth in a peaceful manner. The Law Office of Lori A. Michaud, P.C. understands that even the most well-meaning parents can make mistakes. We will help guide you in preparing a solid parenting plan appropriate for your situation and counsel you on how to do your part to make it work for all parties.

You may anticipate a retainer of $1,000 – $5,000 at the Law Office of Lori A. Michaud, P.C.

High Conflict divorces are highly likely to exceed any retainer amount. It is a simple fact that the cost of a “high conflict” divorce is open ended and the only limited factor is the depth of the party’s pocket. There is no limit on the issues that may arise and become “high conflict” if both spouses are not interested in containing the issues and working to get the divorce done with minimal collateral damage.

Therefore, there is a higher price with a high conflict divorce. Whether the conflict is due to complicated issues, complicated parties, or the court complicating matters, this is where the art of compromise is invaluable — and where the attorney’s skill at building a case for potential litigation matters!

You may anticipate a retainer of $5,000 and up at the Law Office of Lori A. Michaud, P.C.

Despite the nature of your divorce case, many costs are the same.

Court filing fees, service of process fees, lawyer fees for mandatory appearance, and paralegal time preparing the necessary documents are all unavoidable costs regarding of the level of conflict in your divorce. When fees and costs act as a limiting factor on your choice of conflicts, parties should consider picking their battles based on what is most important to them and discuss a strategic plan with their attorney to achieve their goals within a manageable budget.


An outstanding job on my case to have custody, visitation and support decided in my home state instead of Virginia after I separated from military service.- A.E.