Divorces are messy, time-consuming, and costly. The state where you file for divorce, the complexity of your marital estate, and how successfully you can work with your soon-to-be ex-spouse resolving issues pertaining to your divorce will play a role in the overall cost of your divorce. The more issues you fail to reach an agreement on, the more likely you are to face higher than average costs.
Hourly Costs of California Divorce AttorneysGenerally speaking, a family law attorney will charge between $300 and $365 per hour in California. Divorces can be time-consuming, the shortest time is usually eight months while the longest time is generally 20 months. On average, a divorce takes approximately 15 months between the initial filing and the divorce being finalized. This time may be longer or shorter depending on whether some issues can be resolved before going to court. When a couple has children, the overall proceedings may also take longer. Couples should anticipate costs of between $17,000 and $26,000 for the total cost of a California divorce. It is important to review some reasons why divorces can take so much time.
California Divorces and Property DivisionOne of the first issues a divorcing couple will have to contend with is property division. California is a community property state which means any assets (or debts) accumulated during the marriage are property of both spouses. However, there are some things you should be aware of which can change the "value" of your marital estate including:
- Sole property - any property which one spouse had prior to the marriage is considered sole property of the spouse who had the property. Additionally, any settlements reached in personal injury cases, inherited assets, or gifts given to one partner remain the sole property of the spouse and are not considered community property.
- Property covered by pre or post-marital agreements - some couples sign prenuptial agreements, or enter into similar agreements after they are married. Any property which is explicitly mentioned in a valid agreement as belonging to one spouse or the other would be honored by the courts.
- Commingled property - if one spouse worked in a company prior to marriage and they were earning funds in a pension plan, the amounts deposited prior to the marriage, and after the couple was separated would be considered sole property.
- Property obtained after separation - any property (or debt) accumulated after the couple is no longer cohabitating would belong to the partner who acquired the property.
Child Custody and Support Issues Impacting California Divorce CostsWhile parents feel they must act in the best interest of their children, in nearly all divorce cases there are disagreements over child custody. These disagreements result in divorces getting delayed and increased costs. Should the issue of child custody need to be decided by the family court, there are a couple of options which the judge has. These include:
- Legal custody - legal custody impacts the decisions which are made for the child including health care, education, and where the child lives. Legal custody may be awarded to one parent or both. If both parents are awarded legal custody, they will make decisions about important issues after consulting with one another.
- Physical custody - this impacts where the child will live. Like legal custody, physical custody may be awarded to both parents. This does not always mean the child will spend the exact amount of time with each parent, but there is a mutual agreement on when the child spends their time and the time between parents is divided as equally as possible.