There are two questions that are almost always asked by a potential client during an initial consult for divorce: “How long will the entirety of the divorce process take?” and “How much will this cost me in the end?”.
Answering these questions can be challenging for an attorney as attorneys can never truly be certain how long a divorce will take or how much it may cost.
The answer to these questions is almost always “Well it depends.”
There are a variety of factors that will ultimately determine the cost and length of a divorce.
These include the complexity of various issues related to the divorce, whether the couple shares children, the amount and type of property owned between the couple, and the availability of the court, among other factors.
Often times, these factors are ones that cannot be controlled by the attorney, thus making it difficult to gauge how long it may take for the divorce to be completed and what the ultimate costs may be. The monetary costs of a divorce and the amount of time required for a divorce to be completed are interrelated as the factors that impact the length of a divorce are often the same factors that determine the overall costs of the divorce.
When attempting to determine how long a divorce may take, we know for sure that in Texas it will take at least 60 days. While some limited exceptions exist, in Texas, courts require a 60 day “cooling off period” after a petition for divorce has been filed before it can be finalized.
The single greatest factor in determining how long a divorce may take is the willingness of the spouses to find common ground and reach agreements.
Simply speaking, the more agreements that can be reached by the opposing parties, the faster a divorce can be finalized. If parties were to completely agree to the terms of the divorce regarding the distribution of assets and child possession matters, the divorce can theoretically be finalized on the 60th day after the petition has been filed.
However, if agreements cannot be reached, there may be a need for multiple court proceedings.
One factor that can seriously prolong a divorce is the willingness of one party to make things difficult and draw out the process. I tell clients that I can control my own actions as an attorney and often the actions of my client, but I cannot account for the opposing party or opposing counsel.
If a party wants to prolong a divorce and make things difficult, there are numerous tools available for an attorney who doesn’t mind being complicit in their client’s desire to drag things out.
Just as it is difficult to accurately determine up front how long a divorce may last, it is often times just as difficult to determine how much a divorce will cost. Similar to the time it takes for a divorce to be completed, the reason it is difficult to estimate the cost of a divorce case is because much of what happens is driven by factors outside of the control of the lawyer and the client.
The factors that make predicting the length of a divorce difficult are often the same factors that may determine the overall costs of the divorce.
Spouses and difficult or unresponsive opposing counsel can drive up fees significantly. Also, no matter how proactive your lawyer is in filing motions and meeting deadlines, the unpredictable pace of the court system can drive up legal fees as well.
It is important to remember that, when filing any lawsuit, the attorney is constrained by the availability of the court. It is not uncommon for an attorney to be unable to schedule a hearing for several months as a result of the court’s crowded docket.
Ultimately, when attempting to determine the costs of a divorce and the time it takes to complete a divorce, an attorney simply cannot predict the various factors necessary to determine how a divorce may proceed.
When a potential client asks about the estimated length or costs of a divorce case, the client can reasonably expect their lawyer to provide a range of time and costs based on similar cases that the lawyer has had in the past. That’s about the best the attorney can really do as providing an exact figure for time or cost is setting up a potential client for disappointment.
To schedule a consult, contact us here or give us a call at 940-387-3518.