The Divorce Process in New Hampshire
By Attorney Ian Reardon – Almost every divorce is different depending on the facts of the particular case, however, a fully contested divorce would involve all of the steps outlined in the below graphic. The majority of cases don’t end up at a final hearing. At some point, after the petition is filed, the parties come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce and the final papers are signed.
The point at which the parties reach a settlement is often the most determinative factor in the total cost of hiring an attorney. The parties can agree to settle their case at virtually any time prior to the final hearing. Often times a settlement can be a much better solution than spending thousands of dollars on legal fees.
Attorney Costs, Prices, Fees, and Hourly Rates
Unless your divorce is uncontested, most New Hampshire divorce attorneys will charge you an hourly rate. The average hourly rate in NH for divorce lawyers is between $150-$400 per hour. This rate is often influenced by the attorney’s or firms’s experience, the geographical market (the more populated the area, generally the higher the hourly rate), and how well the attorney or law firm is respected in the community.
The Uncontested Divorce - The Least Expensive Option
A divorce is uncontested when the parties agree on every single issue relating to ending their marriage. I’ve written a guide to uncontested divorce in New Hampshire where you can learn more about the cost and process. Uncontested divorces in NH can range from as little as $500 to over $2,000.
The Typical Divorce - A Settlement Along the Way
No divorce is ‘typical,’ however the vast majority of divorces settle somewhere between when the petition is filed and the final hearing. The sooner a settlement can be reached, the lower the final costs. To give an example, lets say that the divorce petition has been filed, the parties exchanged discovery, attended a mediation, and had a temporary hearing. A divorce like this would still cost several thousand dollars. Most likely it would be in excess of $5,000, depending on the hourly rate of the attorney.
Worst Case Scenario - A Final Hearing and More
If the parties fail to reach a settlement along the way, the court will schedule a final hearing. A final hearing can last for just a few hours or take several days. The amount of time it takes an attorney to prepare for a final hearing is substantial. The cost of the final hearing along with all the other hearings that are required along the way can result in substantial attorney time. These types of cases can easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Factors that can Reduce or Increase your Divorce Costs
Less Expensive – The parties have an amicable relationship. While divorce is difficult, spouses that can communicate and rationally discuss the issues that surround their divorce often have lower legal fees. When the parties make decisions themselves, everything is a lot less expensive.
Less Expensive – The parties have reasonable expectations. The parties need to understand that a large amount of their marital assets will be split between the spouses. A party who comprehends that their assets will be divided somewhat evenly (depending on the facts), will be more likely to settle early on in the process.
Less Expensive – The client does their homework and helps the attorney prepare. A divorce case requires the attorney to obtain many financial documents, bank statements and other necessary records. The client knows the facts of their case best and is in best situation to help the attorney prepare. The more the client is responsive to the attorney’s requests and tasks, the lower the final cost will be.
Neutral – What type of attorney does each side have? Some clients prefer an “aggressive” attorney that is willing to fight the other side for every dollar. Some clients prefer a more “pragmatic” attorney who will advise the client on the potential outcomes, factoring the cost of litigation and other expenses, when advising the client on a settlement. The type of attorney that you choose will have a large influence on the ultimate cost of your divorce.
More Expensive – The parties do not get along at all. If the parties can’t agree on anything, the chances are that a settlement is far away. The parties must go through more of the divorce process and potentially a final hearing.
More Expensive – Minor Children are involved. Children are often one of the most important and most difficult aspects of a divorce. Neither party wants to lose contact with their children. Additionally, the court requires additional documents and hearings relating to the children’s well being.
More Expensive – The parties have significant financial assets. This makes everything more expensive for two reasons. First, the time spent deciding on who should get what asset and how much, is difficult. Second, the cost of litigation (the divorce process) is not a large factor in deciding whether or not to settle. The assets the parties are fighting over are worth substantially more than the cost of the divorce.
More Expensive – One party is seeking fault based divorce. Often times one party will seek a fault based divorce (often in the case of an extramarital affair). The cost to prove fault is very expensive and requires additional attorney time.