One of the most unsettling question marks in a divorce case is the cost of attorney fees. In an uncontested case the fees can usually be fixed as a flat fee. However, in a contested case the fees are usually billed at an hourly rate. Why the difference?
In an uncontested case your spouse does not contest the proceedings, so your lawyer can estimate how much time it will take to complete your side of the divorce based on their prior experience, i.e., the lawyer can predict how much time they will spend to get your matter finalized.
In a contested case your spouse contests the proceedings, so your lawyer cannot predict how long it will take for your case to be finalized. Your spouse may agree to everything that you propose on or before your first court date. Or your spouse may fight every settlement proposal and take unreasonable positions on every issue. A contested case may be resolved after one court appearance, or the case may not resolve even after multiple court appearances and numerous court filings. A contested case may not settle at any point, and may have to be tried in front of a judge. Because of the unpredictability of a contested case lawyers set hourly rates for their work in these cases.
Can I Make My Spouse Pay My Attorney Fees?
In an uncontested case the court will generally not award attorney’s fees against the non-contesting party. However, in a contested case there are a few situations in which the court may make your spouse pay or contribute to your attorney fees. The top two reasons that a court may award counsel fees are either a parties bad faith and/or a parties lack of money,