Divorce Cost

Last Updated on December 25, 2022 | Written by CPA Alec Pow
First Published on June 1, 2014 | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popivker

In the US, the average cost of a divorce is around $15,000. The good part is that you can manage the cost of the divorce just like a household budget. With that in mind, when you plan your divorce, if you know you have valuables to protect, you should think about those first, and then think about how to get away with spending the least for the actual separation process. You will probably need to spend money to save money when going through a divorce.

When going for the “cheap” divorce, think about the short-term and the long-term consequences. It will be worth every penny you pay when you’re negotiating the division of property, the retirement benefits, or even the issue of spousal support.

The average cost of an uncontested divorce

Recent data shows that although in places in Europe like Wales and even England, uncontested divorces make up about 99% of all divorce cases, when it comes to the US things are slightly different and a lot more cases end up in court.

When it comes to uncontested divorces, if you are the one trying to break things up, then you are called a petitioner and you will have to pay between $500 and $1000 in solicitor fees, as well as about $600 in divorce center fees, which brings you to a total of about $1,000 to $1,500 in total expenses.

Your divorceThe route you’re going to take when going through a divorce will have a big influence on the final price you’ll have to pay. Read below the four main ways of obtaining a divorce:

  • Divorce Court: The divorce court is the best choice if you and your spouse can’t mediate your marriage or come to an agreement on problems like child custody, property division, or spousal support. This choice will be very expensive. You and your life partner will have to hire your own attorneys and experts to help you in court. You will have to pay the court fees and the filing fees. Your attorney will be paid by the hour and his fees will depend on the local prices. Some couples get lucky and find two attorneys that will want to work together to find the best solution. The unlucky ones will find adversarial attorneys that will drag out the divorce, which will lead to huge costs.
  • Mediation: As two people get a divorce, mediation will be an effective alternative to court litigation. Couples are helped through the issues of the separation to find an agreeable settlement, by a mediator, that will be impartial. This is the best solution for couples that want to take control of the outcome of their divorce, without attorneys or going to a divorce court. This process is voluntary. If you choose this solution, you will only have to pay for the mediator itself, the attorney review of the signed agreement, and the filing fees with the court.
  • Do It Yourself/Pro Se Litigation: When you represent yourself in your own divorce, without the help of an attorney, it’s called Pro Se divorce litigation. The only thing that’s different, besides the fact that you won’t have an attorney to help you win, will be the fact that you will be responsible for filing and filling out all the necessary legal forms. Seeing that you’ll go to divorce court and represent yourself, the only costs associated with Pro Se litigation will be the filing fees.
  • Collaborative Divorce: In a Collaborative Divorce there will be two attorneys, two Collaborative Coaches, a Divorce Financial Specialist, and if you have children a Child Specialist. The Collaborative Divorce will cost you less in the long run, although you’ll have to face higher prices during the actual divorce. You will have no court fees or filing fees associated with this process, but you will have to pay each specialist their own hourly rate.

The average cost of a divorce lawyer

When it comes to a divorce solicitor or lawyer, you can never actually know how much they will charge without talking to one, as it basically comes down to a case-by-case situation and whether you’ll choose to be billed by the hour or based on a fixed fee.

You might also like our articles on the cost of a courthouse wedding, child adoption, or child support lawyer.

But, as you probably understand, it will be a lot cheaper when both parties agree on the divorce and it goes uncontested, than when the financial settlement is thrown into the equation or things get even more complicated and the couple needs to go to court.

Hourly Rates for Divorce Lawyers

The first expense you will actually deal with when hiring a divorce lawyer will be their hourly rate. According to public studies, the average rate per hour for divorce lawyers all around the US is $275, but they will vary considerably, as you’d expect. Most people will pay anywhere between $200 and #300 in hourly lawyer rates, but some will pay as little as $100 per hour, while others will pay more than $400. The same studies show that all across the US, hourly rates reported show big discrepancies in different regions, with large cities on both coasts reporting the highest rates for attorneys. And, as you’d expect, more experienced attorneys with more won cases under their belts will have significantly higher rates as well.

Total Cost of a Divorce Lawyer

You should also keep in mind that the hourly rate doesn’t tell you anything about the final bill, as you can’t know from the start how many hours they’ll actually work for you. An average you should consider is about $11,300 in attorney fees alone when you pick one that will handle everything related to your case from start to finish. It’s what’s known as a full-scope divorce lawyer.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the average. Keep in mind that there are people willing to pay a lot of money and people charging a lot in hourly rates, which really mess with this average. To get a better idea of what you should expect, we also figured out the median costs when it comes to divorce lawyers. Median means the perfect middle of the range, where half of all the people paid more and the other half paid less. So based on our research, the median total in attorney fees is somewhere closer to $7,000. And that’s not all. Out of all the people that paid below $7,000, more than half paid less than $5,000 to their attorneys.

Other Expenses for Divorce With a Lawyer

When it comes to divorce expenses, and especially when getting a full-scope attorney, the fees of your lawyer will be the biggest expense to prepare for. But there are also other fees you shouldn’t ignore. Among them are court costs and filing fees. Depending on how the divorce will go, you might also have to pay different experts like tax advisors, real estate appraisers, and even child custody evaluators. Usually, you will spend somewhere around $1,500 on these additional fees. As for the median, most people have paid around $500.

Should the average working married couple get a divorce?

Separation should be the last resort. There are a lot of ways of dealing with your problems as a couple before reaching this extreme step. If resolving the problems yourself seems impossible, you should try a marriage counselor or a therapist. If children are involved, you should also think about them before going through a separation, as they will be the ones that suffer the most. If you tried everything but a divorce remains the only solution, then you should at least part ways on good terms. Going through a civilized separation will not only be easier for you and your children but in the end, will also cost a lot less. The attorney and Divorce Court should be the last resort.

Alec Pow
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