Divorce is almost never a pleasant experience. Along with the various emotional, financial, and legal consequences of ending a marriage, there’s also the expense of the divorce process itself. No one can tell you exactly how much your divorce will cost, but you can be better prepared if you have an idea of typical divorce expenses where you live. And if you want to keep your costs as low as you can, it will help to know why some divorces cost more than others.
In order to provide that kind of helpful information, we conducted a survey of readers who recently went through a divorce in Michigan and across the country. In addition, we conducted a study of the fees and billing practices reported by Michigan family law attorneys. Here’s what learned about the cost of divorce in Michigan after we compared and analyzed the data.
The Cost of a Divorce Lawyer in Michigan
More than two-thirds of the readers in our survey hired an attorney to help with their divorce. For those readers, the lawyer’s fee accounted for the bulk of their divorce-related expenses. Two elements go into that final bill: the lawyer’s hourly rate and the total number of hours needed to resolve the issues in your divorce. Let’s look at how those factors play out in Michigan.
How Much Do Michigan Divorce Lawyers Charge per Hour?
The attorneys in our study reported the range of hourly rates they charge clients. The average minimum across Michigan was $225 per hour, and the average maximum was $270 per hour. The upper end of that range is below than the national average rates for family lawyers. And the Michigan averages are significantly lower than typical hourly rates in expensive coastal states like New York and California.
In addition to differences from state to state, there are two main reasons that you may encounter higher or lower hourly rates:
- Location within Michigan. Attorneys with offices in metropolitan areas with a higher cost of living, like some of the wealthy suburbs of Detroit and Grand Rapids, usually charge higher hourly rates than their counterparts in low-income cities and towns.
- Expertise in family law. Experienced attorneys who specialize in family law usually charge more per hour than practitioners with less expertise. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean higher total bills for seasoned family law specialists, because they can often handle difficulties in divorces more efficiently than their less-experienced counterparts.
What’s the Typical Total Cost for a Michigan Divorce Lawyer?
Of our readers who did hire a divorce lawyer, the vast majority had the attorney take care of everything in their case—what’s known as full-scope representation—rather than handling limited tasks like reviewing a settlement agreement. So when we studied total expenses in typical Michigan divorce cases, we focused on the expense of a full-scope attorney.
Our analysis, which was based on the combined data from our reader survey and attorney study, showed that the average total cost of a full-scope attorney in a typical Michigan divorce ranges from $9,500 to $11,300, based on minimum and maximum hourly rates. However, your expenses could be significantly higher or lower than that range, depending on the contested issues in your case and whether you’re able to settle those disputes without going to trial.
How Disputes and Trial Affect the Cost of Divorce in Michigan
Unless your marriage lasted a very short time, you didn’t acquire any property or debts with your spouse, and you had no kids together, you will probably have to work out some important issues in your divorce, such as:
Our survey showed that disputes over these issues can drive up divorce costs significantly. They mean that your lawyer will need to spend time on what’s known as the discovery process—collecting and exchanging financial documents and other evidence, conducting depositions, and so forth. If your spouse is uncooperative (for instance, by refusing to turn over required documents), or if one of you requests a temporary order for support or custody, your attorney may also have to prepare motions and attend court hearings on the matter. It also takes time for lawyers to negotiate a settlement. And if those negotiations don’t lead to a settlement agreement on all of the contested issues, your attorney will have to spend a lot more time preparing for a divorce trial and representing you in court.
To see how contested issues impact the total cost of divorce in Michigan, we studied attorneys’ fees in several of the most common situations. Our analysis of the combined data from the attorney study and reader survey showed that in cases with no contested issues, the average total cost of a Michigan divorce is $3,400-$4,000 (with the range based on minimum and maximum hourly fees). Average costs are $5,000-$5,900 when couples settle one dispute without a trial and $8,600-$10,200 when they have two or more contested issues but no trial. When they go to trial on one issue, the average costs are $11,800-$14,000—and even higher if they require a trial on more than one dispute.
What Other Expenses Contribute to the Cost of Divorce?
Besides what you pay your attorney—and even if you don’t hire a lawyer—you will have other expenses in your divorce. Along with filing fees (which vary from county to county), you might have to pay for a mediator and experts like child custody evaluators or financial analysts. According to our national survey, the average for these non-lawyer expenses is $1,600. Here again, your actual costs will depend on the circumstances in your case.
More Information and Resources on Michigan Divorce
Follow the links below for more useful information about divorce in Michigan: