The cost of a divorce (or any other family law case), is driven by how much you and the other side fight. To some degree you can control how much you fight; you can’t control how much the other side wants to fight.
But generally the majority of divorces break down into phases. While the time line is different for King and Snohomish County, the overall process is much the same. Divorces, parentage cases, and parenting plan modifications usually take about a year, start to finish. In Snohomish County, if you manage it properly, you can be at trial in about six to eight months. In King County, it’s about 11 months. he phases tend to be:
Beginning of Case (Month 1): The case gets filed and served. Sometimes – about half the time – we have a fight over temporary orders, sometimes Orders of Protection, and sometimes those orders get revised. All of that takes place in the first 1-5 weeks or so. The cost for the first month will run from $500-600, if all we are doing is filing the case, serving it, and not fighting in court, to $3,000-5,000 or so. The average cost is about $3000-3500 if we have a fight in court over a temporary parenting plan, etc.
Middle of Case (Month 2-9): (About Two Months Before Trial). This is the discovery phase. Usually nobody goes to court during this phase, so costs are low. But some time and money is spent on discovery and other suspense items. Discovery costs anywhere from $500 to $2,000- 3,000 if there is a real fight about producing documents. In a case where there is little conflict, average expenses between Month 2 and Month 9 are between $500 and $1500; in very contested cases (complex divorces, high asset cases, hidden asset cases), it will run $3,000-8,000.
Mediation (One Month Before Trial): But in both King and Snohomish County, we have to go to mediation before going to trial. That usually takes place a month before trial. Most (90%+) cases settle in mediation, but it does take time to both prepare for mediation and actually in mediation. Mediation always takes most of a day. I prepare for mediation the same way, with the same exhibits, as I prepare for trial. That gives me the best results at mediation; and it means if we don’t settle the case, we do little new work to get ready for trial. A professional mediator costs each side between $900 and $1400 or so; mediation usually takes 4-8 hours. The attorney fees for mediation will be between $2500 and $4500 – depending entirely on how much time it takes. Most divorces settle in mediation. But the average cost of mediation, total, is $3,500-7,500.
Trial: Trial costs an average of $2500 a day, with half a day for prep time, and another half a day for paperwork after trial. The average divorce trial, without children, is a day to a day and a half; the average trial with custody issues lasts two to five days. So the average cost of trial is between $5,000 and $7,500.