We've all heard horror stories about how divorce destroys wealth. Marital assets get divided, you start paying to support two homes, and the legal bills seem to stretch on for miles. Needless to say, legal fees are a very large component of divorce expenses -- but just how large?
This core question prompted the research team at AttorneyFee.com to undertake a huge research project about the cost of divorce. We are still sifting through some of the data, but as the results trickle in, we will share our findings here on The Huffington Post. The first question we will address is: what is the most expensive city in America for getting divorced?
Does divorce in Dallas cost more than separation in San Fran? Does the tab in Trenton outweigh the bill in Boston? To answer these questions, we've analyzed billing data from tens of thousands of divorce attorneys across the country. To see the results from your city, enter your zip code in the search box below.
Based on average hourly billing rates of lawyers across the country, the most expensive city in America for getting divorced is Los Angeles, California. Second to that is New York, followed by San Francisco and Miami.
At first glance, we might be tempted to explain this by stating the obvious: LA has some of the highest cost of living in the country, so it only makes sense that divorce lawyers there would charge the most. But in fact, this explanation doesn't hold water. When you compare the cost of legal services for other life cycle events, like retirement and succession planning, LA is number three, and first place goes to San Antonio. So we're left with the challenge of explaining why LA is the most expensive place in the country to get divorced.
Is there some nuance of Angelino culture that could explain this phenomenon, or is it as simple as supply and demand? Are divorce lawyers in LA just that much more talented than their colleagues in other cities? And how do you measure the value of your divorce lawyer's time?
Needless to say, a lawyer's hourly billing rate tells only part of the story. One lawyer might have a savvy strategy to get a quicker resolution, or another lawyer may spend twice as much time on the same task. Presumably, though, lawyers with equal amounts of experience should be equally savvy and equally efficient.
Let's close this with a few questions to stir the conversation. How much do you think the average divorce lawyer should charge for an hour of his/her time? What is the absolute most that you would be willing to pay? And for those of us that have actually been through the process, did your attorney charge more or less than you expected?