Most people know divorce can be costly. Along with having to divide a couple’s assets, both parties have to contend with a variety of expenses, including costs such as filing fees, lawyers, and certain services. If you want to know how much a divorce costs, here’s how to estimate what you may need to pay.
How Much Does the Average Divorce Cost?
A typical divorce in the United States costs around $15,500. The average hourly rate for a divorce lawyer comes in at $250.
However, there are a lot of factors that determine how much a divorce costs. In some cases, it is possible to get a divorce for less than $500. In others, it can cost $30,000 or more to divorce a spouse.
The Factors That Determine the Cost of a Divorce
How much a divorce costs depends on a variety of factors. For example, where you are getting a divorce plays a role, as different states (and even counties) may charge different fees.
Additionally, if you opt for a do-it-yourself divorce, you’ll spend less than if you need to hire a lawyer. Similarly, deciding to use mediation or a collaborative divorce may be less costly than the traditional approach.
Whether you have children or not also impacts the final price tag. Plus, if you and your spouse generally agree on the major points, such as the division of assets, child support and custody arrangements, and similar considerations, the process may be less expensive than it the situation is more contentious.
The need to go to trial also makes a divorce more expensive. If you can avoid going to trial, you can save money on your divorce.
How Much Does the Least Expensive Divorce Cost?
While the actual cost varies by location, a divorce can cost $500 or less. However, both parties must agree on all major issues, a circumstance known as an uncontested divorce. Additionally, one of the parties will need to create their own divorce papers.
Usually, fill in the blank divorce papers can be purchased as part of a kit or you can use an online service to draft your own paperwork for a fee. In some cases, you can actually get a packet from your local court or state website for free or merely for the cost of printing, allowing you to save as much as possible.
Once the documents are ready, the person filing will need to pay a filing fee. These vary by state. In California, one of the most expensive states for filing for divorce, filing a petition for dissolution of marriage costs generally costs $435. In Mississippi, the cost is only $113.
However, if the filing fee is genuinely unaffordable, many states allow you to submit a form and request a waiver. Usually, you will have to show proof of financial hardship to qualify for a waiver, though it is worth pursuing if you are a low-income household or experiencing significant financial difficulties.
You also need to pay a fee to have the other party served with the papers. Again, this typically varies, though isn’t as costly as the filing fee.
Hiring a Lawyer to Handle Your Divorce
When you need to hire a lawyer to assist during your divorce, the lost goes up dramatically. In most cases, attorneys charge by the hour, so your exact cost will vary depending on the amount of work they have to do to handle your case.
Hourly rates for lawyers are commonly several hundred dollars, with some even exceeding $500 an hour. They usually charge for a variety of activities, including the time spent on phone calls, emails, text messages, paperwork preparation, legal research, preparing for depositions and discovery, preparing for court, and representing you on the day of your hearing.
However, you do not have to use a lawyer for every part of your divorce. For example, you can opt to only use an attorney for the creation of your paperwork, allowing you to gain access to their expertise for just that task.
Other Costs: Mediation or a Collaborative Divorce
Using mediation or collaborative divorce is less expensive than the traditional option that involves going to trial. If you go the mediation route, you and your spouse get together with a neutral third party who helps you resolve any disputes.
If you choose a collaborative divorce, both parties will need an attorney. However, you will attend meetings together instead of going to trial, working to resolve any issues until an agreement is reached.
The cost for mediation or a collaborative divorce can range from a few thousand dollars to $9,000 or more, depending on how complex the case is and how many meetings are necessary. But, in most cases, it is cheaper than going to trial.
What If We Have Children?
If you have children, you can use any of the options above to get divorced. However, it makes the case more complex as you have to address items like custody agreements, visitation, and child support.
Essentially, if you have kids, expect it to cost more than if you were a couple without children. The only exception may be if you choose to use the do-it-yourself approach, though there could still be additional fees or requirements that add to the overall cost.
Is a Legal Separation Cheaper Than a Divorce?
In many instances, a legal separation costs about the same as a divorce. You still have to create formal documents and file with the court, so those charges are usually similar to those associated with a divorce. Similarly, if you use mediation or lawyers to come to an agreement, you won’t be charged less just because it isn’t a divorce.
However, if you believe that you may reconcile, then a legal separation may be a better option. With a legal separation, you remain legally married but are able to create separation between your lives formally. Under this agreement, you are not allowed to get remarried unless you choose to divorce. You also have legal rights to inherit from one another and to certain benefits, like Social Security.
Plus, a legal separation is reversible. If you resolve your issues and wish to reconcile, you can file to remove the legal separation. With a divorce, the dissolution of the marriage is final. If you ultimately reconcile, you would have to remarry legally to reestablish the union.
Are you divorced? How much did getting divorced cost you? Share your experience in the comments below.
- The Financial Consequences of Divorce
- 5 Things to Remember During a Divorce
- The Billion-Dollar Divorce, and What You Can Learn from It
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