How Much Does A Divorce Lawyer Charge

There is no one conclusive answer as to how much a Divorce Lawyer will charge for services rendered. It is very much on a case by case basis, and dependant on whether you go for a fixed fee, or a by the hour Divorce Attorney.

Divorce Attorneys hourly rates can differ significantly and may depend on a variety of aspects such as: -

  • the Attorney’s seniority;
  • the Attorney’s experience in related matters;
  • the number of issues that must be resolved in and out of Court. (A divorce may have various Interim Applications such as a Rule 43 Application, Domestic Violence Application, Declaratory order Application, etcetera before the actual Divorce Trial can start). These issues may have a significant impact on the cost of the divorce action.
  • The duration of the divorce.
  • Where your Attorney is based.
  • Whether your spouse is combative or collegial.

Divorce and Family Lawyers should inform you upfront what their hourly rates will be, except if they agree to handle your divorce for a set fee. The norm in South Africa is that only unopposed or uncontested divorces are charged at a set cost.

An uncontested divorce is a divorce where the divorce is amicable and there are no disputes between the Parties. They have already agreed on the division of assets and liabilities. If they have children, they have decided on where the children will live, and they agree to the maintenance issues etcetera.

Unopposed divorces are typically charged at a set fee by Attorneys, and the amounts vary between R10 000 and R20 000. Some non-Attorneys and DIY websites advertise uncontested divorces from R1000.

It is advisable to see a Divorce Attorney before you proceed with a life-changing procedure such as divorce as it will have significant consequences on your estate and personal wellbeing going forward. You will also get assistance from Attorneys with the Court appearance and dealings with the Clerk and Family Advocate (if necessary). You are not left alone to struggle with the procedures that are unfamiliar to you.

If you have a big estate or your business dealings are complex, and you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, then it is essential to get advice from Attorneys that know and understand divorce law and have experience in dealing with complex divorces.

Average hourly rates of Divorce Lawyers

You can expect to pay between R800 and R5000 per hour for a Divorce Lawyer. As stated above, hourly rates depend on many factors.

Attorneys usually charge much lower hourly fees for work done by their Candidate Attorneys and Paralegals on the Clients file. You can expect your Attorney to inform you which of his staff members will assist them on your file.

It is also essential to not only look at the hourly rates when you decide which Attorney to use. An experienced Attorney can generally work at a much faster pace than a newly qualified Attorney that is still learning the ropes.

Divorce Law is all about strategy – make sure that your Attorney has a plan in place to limit the issues and the legal cost.

Contingency Fees and Divorce

Attorneys are not allowed to work on a contingency fee basis when dealing with divorce matters in South Africa. They are however allowed to work on a deferred payment plan. Most Attorneys will only agree to work on this basis if it is clear that they will get paid at the end of the divorce, i.e. that there will be enough assets left to pay them for all of the work done.

Other Expenses and Costs during divorce

You can expect an increase in your living costs when you go through a divorce and you need to plan for this. Prepare a budget for your income and expenses.

When you are going through an acrimonious divorce, and especially if it is a complicated divorce with lots of assets around the world you can expect to make use of experts. These experts are usually costly, and they may include experts such as:

  • Forensic Accountants [to determine the values of the estate(s)]
  • Industrial Psychologist (for spousal maintenance claims);
  • Investigators (to assist Attorneys in finding the assets);
  • Social Workers and Psychologists.

What can you do to reduce the legal fees during a divorce?

The obvious answer is to settle the matter. However, it takes two people to settle and it is never a good thing to settle a divorce just for the sake of finalisation.

We deal with many post-divorce matters where the Parties settled based on emotions or incorrect advice that they received before the divorce. It is very difficult to undo a divorce settlement that was made an order of Court.

You can do the following to assist your Attorney and thereby reducing your legal cost:

  • communicate appropriately with your Attorney; respond when they ask you for information or documents;
  • prepare the information or documents in a proper format (ask your Attorney in what form they want the information or materials).

We often ask Clients for documents and receipts, and they bring a plastic bag full of receipts to us. We then must work through the receipts, sort them and file them. This is something that Clients can do themselves so that they are not billed for these tasks.

  • Do not phone you Attorney 10 times a day – unless it is an emergency. Attorneys sell their time, so if you call ten times, it will cost you that much

Instead, prepare a list of your questions and email the Attorney. Or phone them once and have your questions ready so that they can respond to your questions in one telephonic consult.


Martin Vermaak

Practising Attorney

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