If you are considering divorce, you may be wondering how much it will cost. The costs of a divorce will vary widely depending on a number of different factors, such as the state in which the divorce proceedings are filed, the parties’ assets, and the extent to which the parties disagree about the major issues in the divorce. The figures in this article are only estimates, and extenuating circumstances may make the divorce much more or much less expensive.
Do It Yourself Divorce
Typical Costs of Divorce
Mediated $2,000 - 6,000 per spouse
Collaborative $5,000 - $15,000 per spouse
Contested $30,000 + per spouse
Source: “Nolo’s Essential Guide to Divorce”
Some states make it easy for couples, especially those without shared children, to complete divorce paperwork themselves. While this may be possible, oftentimes it is not recommended. The money that you save on legal fees may end up being spent later on modifications, unintended tax consequences, and other pitfalls that are common in pro se divorces. Also, in order to do your divorce yourself you must have already reached an agreement about the major issues in your divorce. Without an attorney to represent your interests you may end up unknowingly being taken advantage of.
All divorces require couples to pay the filing fees for the divorce. However, if the cost of those fees is prohibitive then the court may allow them to be waived. Filing fees and other necessary costs in a pro se divorce can range from around $300 to a couple of thousand dollars.
Divorce mediation is generally a less expensive option than traditional divorce. In divorce mediation there is a neutral third party mediator who helps the couple come to an agreement about the major issues in the divorce. Instead of paying two attorneys the couple only needs to pay one mediator. Typically, divorce mediators (who may or may not be attorneys) also draft the paperwork for the divorce. Depending on your region and the mediator you hire, a divorce can cost $3,000 or more. However, if the mediation does not work and you are unable to come to a consensus, you may still end up having to hire attorneys later anyway. As with do-it-yourself divorces, in this sort of mediation you also do not have the benefit of having someone who is tasked with advocating solely on your behalf. Note that mediation in some form is often ordered by the court as part of a contested divorce as well.
Proceed with Caution
It is probably not wise to choose a type of divorce based on its estimated cost alone. If issues arise that cannot be resolved, you will end up paying the costs of a contested divorce on top of the costs of the original avenue of divorce.
An uncontested divorce may take place when a couple has been able to come to an agreement on all the major issues before divorcing. Uncontested divorces are much less expensive and usually take much less time than contested divorces. However, unlike the above options, each party has a lawyer that represents them during the divorce. The cost of an attorney will vary depending on the attorney’s experience and your region. Typically, divorce attorneys will charge between $200 an hour and $500 an hour. The total cost will depend on the complexity of your situation. For example, generally if you have children from the marriage it will cost more than if you do not. However, no matter how expensive it is, it is almost surely less expensive than a contested divorce.
In a contested divorce, the parties have one or more issues that they have not been able to come to an agreement on. As above, the attorney fees will range from around $200 an hour to $500 an hour or more. However, with a contested divorce, the costs can skyrocket upwards depending on how much time attorneys need to spend getting to a resolution. The majority of divorces settle before going to trial. The sooner you settle, the less the divorce will cost generally. The cost will also depend on how many issues are still contested. If there is just one discrete issue that needs to be figured out, then it will cost much less than if there are several issues that still need to be settled. If you are able to settle your divorce before trial, you can potentially end up paying anywhere from $10,000 to many tens of thousands of dollars.
While most divorce cases settle before trial, not all of them do. If you go to trial, the divorce will probably be much more expensive than if you are able to settle beforehand. Trial is time consuming and requires significant preparation. Costs for divorces that go to trial can easily range from tens of thousands of dollars to $100,000 or more.