Understanding the Costs of a Contested Divorce: Factors that Contribute to Expenses

Why Can a Contested Divorce Be Expensive?


Contested divorces often come with significant financial implications due to the complexities and time involved in the legal process. In this post, we will address the factors that contribute to the expenses of a contested divorce and shed light on the billing practices that attorneys typically follow. By understanding these factors, you can better navigate the financial aspects of your divorce.

  1. Hourly Rates and Retainers:

Many attorneys handle contested divorce cases by charging an hourly rate for their services. They typically require a retainer upfront, which is a deposit against which the attorney’s fees will be billed. The hourly rate and the retainer amount can vary depending on the attorney’s experience and reputation.

  1. Factors Increasing Attorney Time:

Several factors can significantly increase the amount of time an attorney spends on your contested divorce case. These factors include:

Discovery: Gathering and exchanging relevant information and documents can be a time-consuming process, especially if there are complex financial matters or disputes over assets.

Difficult Spouse: Dealing with an uncooperative or combative spouse can lead to prolonged negotiations, communications, and additional court appearances.

Difficult Opposing Counsel: If the opposing counsel is challenging or engages in contentious tactics, it can further prolong the legal proceedings.

Complexity of the Case: Matters such as property divisions requiring a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or deed filings can add complexity and time to the case.

Child Custody, Support, and Parenting Plan: Resolving disputes related to child custody, support, and parenting plans often involve detailed negotiations and court appearances.

Temporary Order Hearings: Requesting and attending hearings for temporary orders can contribute to additional attorney time.

Mediation and Motion Hearings: Participating in mediation sessions and addressing various motions, such as a motion to compel, can also increase attorney involvement.

  1. Billing Process and Consultations:

Attorneys bill their clients for the time spent on their cases, including consultations and working hours. Each time you consult with your attorney or every hour the attorney works on your case, you can expect to be billed accordingly. This billing practice is similar to any profession where time and expertise are compensated.


Contested divorces can be expensive due to various factors, including attorneys’ hourly rates, retainers, complexities of the case, and the time required to handle the legal proceedings. It is crucial to be aware of these factors and the billing process employed by your attorney. Open communication with your attorney about costs and billing can help you manage your expectations and make informed decisions during your contested divorce.