Many divorce attorneys offer free consultations, so your initial step toward divorce might not cost you anything. This is especially valuable if you plan on representing yourself, so you can get a rudimentary education on Georgia law. But attorneys give free consultations for a reason; they want your business. If you know going in that you’re not going to hire him, consider offering to pay his hourly rate. This usually depends on his level of experience and expertise, and can range from fifty to several hundred dollars.
A contested case is one in which you don’t have an agreement with your spouse going in, and usually aren’t even close to one. Few attorneys will take such cases on a flat fee basis, because they have no way of knowing how much time they’re going to have to invest in getting you divorced. They bill their hourly rates against retainer fees or deposits. In Georgia, you can expect to pay about $5,000 for a retainer if you have children and property, but possibly under $1,000 if you have neither. Some lawyers will ask you to replenish your retainer fee if you deplete it mid-divorce because your case got complicated. In a prolonged custody battle, you may have to do so several times.
If you do have an agreement with your spouse, some Georgia divorce lawyers will charge you a flat rate to draw up the requisite paperwork and get it through the court system. This rate is usually a little more if you don’t live in the county where your lawyer has an office, because he must incorporate his travel time and costs incurred in driving to court in another county. Flat fees for uncontested divorces are usually under $1,000 in Georgia, and may be even less if you don’t have children.
Attorneys generally expect you to pay court costs and filing fees yourself; they don’t come out of your attorney’s retainer or flat fee. In Georgia, the cost of filing a divorce petition is about $80, but it varies from county to county. In addition, if you have children, the court imposes an extra $30 fee for a mandatory parenting seminar. If you need the county sheriff to serve your divorce papers on your spouse, this will cost you approximately $25 more. Generally, your court costs and associated fees will amount to another $100 to $150 over and above your attorney’s fees.
Your divorce might require other professional fees as well. If retirement benefits are an issue, someone will have to divide them between you and your spouse. This usually requires a qualified domestic relations order or QDRO. Most attorneys will not include the cost of a QDRO in their divorce fee. You’ll have to pay this separately, and it can amount to several hundred dollars. If you own real estate and your divorce is contested, the court will probably require an appraisal to set the property’s value. In Georgia, an appraiser might charge anywhere from $350 for a single family home to $550 for a multi-unit dwelling.