Do you need a Rochester Hills Divorce Lawyer?
Our divorce lawyer Rochester Hills knows divorces are emotional and challenging which can lead to potential poor judgment calls. Not only are you not in the right frame of mind for a healthy, stable relationship, but it can also affect your legal standing in the divorce.
If you are considering a divorce, don’t deal with the matter alone. Seeking the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer is always the best course of action.
Scott J. Sumner, J.D. was born in Macomb County, Michigan and attended Utica Community Schools before graduating from Michigan State University (1986) and Michigan State College of Law (1989), previously Detroit College of Law (DCL).
Frequently Asked Questions for Divorce Lawyer Rochester Hills
What is Divorce in Rochester Hills, Michigan?
Divorce is the legal dissolution of a civil marriage between two individuals. Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, and only one partner has to file for divorce to initiate the proceedings. While you can go through a divorce by yourself, the process is much more straightforward with a divorce lawyer in Rochester Hills by your side.
No-fault divorce means that you don’t have to provide a reason (abandonment, cruelty, or adultery) to file for divorce. As long as one party will testify that the marriage is unsalvageable, the divorce will proceed. The party doesn’t have to provide any evidence for their belief, but their claim must use the required legal language.
The other spouse may choose to agree or disagree with the claim, which will affect the speed of the process.
However, while you don’t need to prove anything to request a divorce, it’s important to note that you and your spouse’s behavior will affect outcomes like alimony, child custody, and property division.
Michigan Divorce Requirements
Michigan has residency requirements that will affect divorce proceedings. To get a divorce, you or your spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least six months before the filing and in the applicable county for at least ten days before filing.
Michigan doesn’t require that spouses live separately before the divorce proceedings, and you can move out of the state during the proceedings. However, the proceedings will remain in Michigan, and you have to attend any required court appearances.
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in Michigan?
Unfortunately, in most cases, a divorce is a lengthy process that will cost you in terms of time, money, and stress. The most considerable expense of the divorce process is the legal fee. A family law firm will often charge by the hour. The longer the case, the more you can expect to pay.
Nevertheless, most law firms in Rochester Hills, MI, will offer full-scope representation. This type of representation covers every aspect of the case, from filing the initial claim to reviewing settlement agreements, dealing with contested issues, and providing legal advice.
A low-cost alternative is to hire a divorce attorney to handle one aspect of the divorce process while you do the rest yourself. While this may save you money in up-front lawyers costs, it may lead to costly mistakes that lead to more substantial losses in the future—especially in severely contested divorces. Even if you plan on an amicable divorce, having a full-scope divorce lawyer at your side will prevent mistakes and result in a smoother, faster divorce process.
Michigan has some of the lowest average national rates for family lawyers. You can expect to pay between $225 and $400 per hour on average, with a total cost of between $9,500 – $11,300 for the entire process.
However, many factors can influence the total cost of hiring a divorce lawyer in Rochester Hills, including those below.
A divorce attorney in a major metropolitan area will charge more than one in a rural or suburban location. Law firms in lower-income areas will also have lower costs than their counterparts in more affluent districts.
A more experienced family law firm will often charge higher hourly rates, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into a higher total bill. These firms have the experience to handle divorces efficiently, resulting in faster cases.
In an ideal world, spouses will agree to all divorce terms, leading to a swift and simple resolution. But in the real world, spousal support, child custody, and division of marital property all present roadblocks that can slow the divorce process down. Not only do contested issues take longer to resolve, but law firms will have to spend time on discovery and depositions to support their case.
If you can’t resolve disputes outside of court, the next step is a trial, which can dramatically influence the cost of a divorce. The divorce attorney will have to prepare motions, attend court hearings, and represent you in court.
In addition to the cost of hiring a divorce lawyer in Rochester Hills, MI, there are some other potential costs you need to consider. You’ll have to pay filing fees which range from $175 to $250. Hiring a mediator can cost thousands of dollars. You may also need to hire experts such as financial analysts and child custody evaluators, who will also charge an hourly fee.
What Is the Average Retainer Fee for a Divorce Lawyer in Michigan?
The average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer in Michigan can vary greatly, depending on the attorney’s experience, caseload, and location. Most attorneys work for an hourly rate, which protects them if the proceedings take longer than expected or other unforeseen complications arise.
An alternative to the hourly rate is a retainer. With this payment method, the divorce lawyer will ask for an up-front fee, ranging from $1,000 – $10,000. Every time they work on your case, they’ll deduct their hourly rate from this up-front amount until the case ends or your retainer expires.
What Does a Retainer Cover?
Your retainer agreement will clearly outline what you’re paying for when you agree to the retainer fee. Retainer fees generally cover:
- Full costs: The retainer will describe the precise amount you’ll pay, including how the firm will manage other law firm employees working on your case.
- Details of managing the retainer account: Typically, a retainer is a trust account with the lawyer as the trustee. The agreement will outline how the law firm will use the funds and when they can transfer them into their business account.
- Additional costs: During a typical divorce proceeding, law firms will incur additional costs, like copy fees, administrative fees, filing fees, court costs, and others. The retainer agreement will outline which of these are covered by the retainer and which are not.
Just like with hourly rates, the retainer fee depends greatly on many factors, including:
- Location: You can expect to pay more for an attorney in a metropolitan, affluent area, where people can afford higher retainers.
- Expertise: Law firms that are confident in their experience will often charge higher retainers, especially if they are in demand. You may have to compete with other clients to secure a divorce attorney for your case at a more experienced and notable firm. However, this experience translates to a smoother, faster divorce where you may achieve more of the results you want from the proceedings.
- The complexity of the case: Your divorce lawyer in Rochester Hills will be able to estimate the length of your divorce proceedings after the initial consultation. The more complex and contentious the case, the longer it will take to resolve. The retainer will be higher to cover the increased length of the case.
The benefit of the retainer is that you can budget better for your divorce. In some instances, the firm may charge a slightly lower hourly rate if you decide to offer a retainer instead of paying only by the hour. It also ensures that you get immediate legal advice, which can be invaluable in the early stages of divorce proceedings.
An alternative to a retainer is a flat fee. Typically, your divorce attorney will only suggest a flat fee in an uncontested divorce, where they can accurately estimate the time and effort of the process. Like with the retainer, it’s a good idea to discuss potential additional costs to avoid surprises at the end of the divorce.
What Can You Not Do During a Divorce?
Going through a divorce is tough, leading you to make some potentially harmful decisions during the process. These pitfalls can affect the proceedings, as well as affect your emotional and financial wellbeing.
By setting a few simple rules, you can avoid these pitfalls and make your divorce slightly easier, both for you and your family.
Don’t Draw Your Children Into the Divorce
Children suffer greatly during a divorce. Even amicable divorces put a lot of emotional strain on kids, and dragging them into the divorce will only make things worse. Here are some of the common ways individuals make their divorce unnecessarily harsh on their children and how to avoid them:
- Sharing the details: Your kids should know that you’re going through a divorce, but that’s it. They don’t need to know about alimony, division of marital property, and the other details. Children feel powerless during a divorce, and burdening them with adult details and information that they can’t change will not improve the situation.
- Using them as a relay: If you want to communicate with your spouse, do so directly. Don’t use your children as a go-between, especially during fraught divorces. You have your divorce attorney to communicate with your spouse, so use them instead.
- Forcing favorites: Your child has two parents, regardless of what you think of your spouse. While some situations require a one-parent solution, your children love both of their parents. Don’t try to force them to love you more or love your spouse less.
Don’t Start a New Relationship
Divorces are emotional, which will lead to potential poor judgment calls, especially in terms of partners. Not only are you not in the right frame of mind for a healthy, stable relationship, but it can also affect your legal standing in the divorce. Your spouse may use the relationship as a method to avoid paying spousal support, and it affects your moral standing with the judge.
Don’t Move Out Unnecessarily
Unless you’re in physical or emotional danger, it’s a good idea to stay in your marital home until you have a solid plan. Adapting to living on a single income is a challenge and not one you should face while undergoing a divorce. Only move out once you have found an affordable new place that provides a safe space for you and your children.
You may think that buying a new luxury item will make you feel better during a divorce, but it won’t. And in some cases, your spouse may argue that it’s part of your marital property that is up for division during the divorce.
Don’t Avoid Paying Bills
Your responsibilities don’t go away simply because you’re going through a tough divorce. Marital debt is highly contentious, but the truth is that you’re responsible for any joint debts. Avoiding these debts out of principle will do more harm than good and can even affect your credit history, making recovering from the divorce even more difficult.
How Do I Keep a Divorce Lawyer With No Money?
Divorces are expensive, especially if you’ve chosen a good divorce lawyer in Rochester Hills. You may look at the average rates and think that you don’t have the resources to get the best representation possible, and it may put you off the entire divorce process.
Family law firms specializing in estate planning and divorce proceedings understand that many people come from challenging financial situations. That doesn’t mean that you’re not entitled to representation, and there are several ways to extend how far your money goes.
Choose Your Battles
The longer your divorce proceedings, the more expensive they will be. Don’t fight over every aspect of the divorce, and be prepared to let some things go. Instead, focus your energy on things that genuinely matter and try to keep the divorce as amicable as possible.
Understand Your Retainer
Your retainer agreement will outline how the law firm will use the money, often including small tasks such as answering your questions and filing proceedings. You can stretch your retainer further by finding tasks that you can do independently and doing some research before calling the divorce attorney to ask a question.
Inquire About Payment Plans
Some law firms may have financial plans to help you cover the financial burden of a divorce. Some may offer a flat rate or ask for monthly payments instead of a retainer. These methods won’t reduce the total cost of the divorce, but they’ll make the financial aspect more manageable.