How Much Will Divorce Cost Me? – The Financial Cost of Divorce

calculating the cost of divorce

How Much Will Divorce Cost Me? – The Financial Cost of Divorce

One of the biggest questions that come with any divorce is “How much will divorce cost?” The answer can depend on numerous things, including the type of divorce you’ll go through, whether you have kids involved, hiring a lawyer and their specific charges, the property and debt that will need to be divided between the two parties, etc. To understand how much it will cost, first, it is important to understand the different types of divorce. Keep in mind that there are many, and below are just a few common types.  


Summary Divorce

This is also considered an expedited divorce and is commonly available to couples that haven’t been married for a long time, typically five years or less. These couples don’t own a lot of property, don’t have children, nor a significant amount of joint debt. Both parties must agree upon the divorce, and the court papers should also be filed jointly. This divorce doesn’t involve a lot of paperwork, especially when compared to other types.


Collaborative Divorce

This type of divorce involves working with lawyers that are specifically trained for this method of divorce. Each spouse will hire their lawyer, and each will be obligated to work cooperatively to settle the case. The spouses will each agree to disclose the necessary information to have fair negotiations and meet with each other and both lawyers as often as needed to reach a settlement.


If the divorce doesn’t get settled through the collaborative process, everyone must agree that the original attorneys will withdraw from the case, and the spouses will hire new attorneys to take the case to court. This is to ensure that the participants are acting in good faith.


Uncontested Divorce

In this kind of divorce, you and your spouse will settle all your differences on issues up-front. These can include child custody and visitation or, in other words, parenting time, child support, division of property, alimony, etc. A written separation agreement will then be made with all the terms.


After settling the case, you’ll then be able to file for divorce with the court. In most situations, these cases are fast-tracked, so you might not have to wait a long time, and in some states, you won’t even be required to make a court appearance. Instead, you’ll need an affidavit.


Contested Divorce

When you and your spouse can’t agree on the marital issues, a judge will have to decide on each one of them for you in a Contested Divorce. These can be time-consuming, stressful, and can quickly escalate the cost of divorce. There will likely be a court trial if the case can’t be resolved through mandatory settlement negotiations and other hearings.


Default Divorce

If you’ve filed for divorce and your spouse doesn’t respond, this is referred to as a Default Divorce. If you’ve complied with the rules and regulations of the court, a judge can grant the divorce even though your spouse hasn’t participated. While it seems simple, it’s not always the case.


The Average Cost of Divorce

While many people ask themselves, “how much will divorce cost?” there’s not always a clear answer since each case is different. However, the overall national average is around $15,000 per person. This cost factors in attorney fees, court costs, and also hiring outside experts such as a child custody evaluator, tax advisor, or real estate appraiser.


It’s also important to point out that the time involved in the divorce process is a big part of determining the cost. The average divorce will take anywhere between 4 and 11 months to settle. If trials are necessary, it can take more than a year, quickly elevating the cost.


The Factors That Can Impact the Cost of Divorce

Similar to the average cost of divorce, this question doesn’t have a straightforward answer. The cost can vary on numerous factors, including whether you and your spouse agree on specific things, whether you or your spouse want to use an attorney, etc. The following are factors that can affect the average cost:


● The hourly rate of lawyers vs. paying a retainer fee

● If it’s a contested or uncontested divorce

● The location of the divorce – where it’s filed and the local filing fees

● Alimony

● Child custody and evaluation

● Mediation


In cases of mutual divorce, where you and your spouse agree on major issues, you can file an uncontested divorce which is often the least expensive one. This could cost you under $500 if you were to write and file your divorce papers. However, a precise cost isn’t predictable because every state charges fees for filing for divorce, regardless of the kind of divorce you’re filing for. Some states will also grant the filer a waiver on the filing fees based on their income.

Miscellaneous Fees

Aside from the standard cost of divorce, there might also be other expenses that you’ll have to account for. Here are some that you can consider:


● Divorce Mediation Costs – mediators can help the couple resolve contested issues without going to trial.

● Refinancing Loans – refinancing a loan into one spouse’s name can cost several thousand dollars based on the type and amount of the loan. These loans can include a mortgage or car loan. In some cases, personal loans can also be refinanced into the other spouse’s name.

● Relocation Expenses – either one or both spouses might be required to move during or after the divorce. This can quickly accumulate quite a few moving costs.

● Family Therapy – Therapy can be essential for you or your children. The cost of each session can vary but are on average between $75 and $200 per session.


In some situations, you won’t have to wonder how much will divorce cost, and you’ll be able to complete the process in a simple and low-cost manner. However, in some other cases and situations can’t be avoided, which can quickly increase the cost.


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Family Law FAQ

With major life events and changes, it’s always a good idea to consult a lawyer. Getting through a divorce may also be a very stressful project and you need someone experienced to protect your rights as well as protect your children’s rights (if you have any). Here at Legal Chiefs, we can get you in touch with someone current with the laws in your state concerning divorce, marriage, marital property, child custody, visitation, and family support
The grounds for divorce may be based on no-fault or fault depending on the state, but no-fault divorce is available in some form in all 50 states. Most of the states also have fault-based grounds as an additional option. A no-fault divorce is one in which neither of the partners blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage and common bases for no-fault divorce may be “incompatibility,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “irreconcilable differences.” Suppose the parties have lived separately for a certain period with the intent that the separation is permanent. In that case, it is another common basis of no-fault, but once again, the specifics vary from state to state. With a fault-based divorce, the list of grounds may include physical cruelty, mental cruelty, adultery, attempted murder, habitual drunkenness, desertion, use of addictive drugs, impotence, insanity, and infection of one’s spouse with venereal disease.
While every divorce starts with a bit of bitterness, statistics show that most of the cases are settled without the need for a judge to decide on a property or other issues. In most cases, spouses are free to divide their property as they see fit in what is called a “marital settlement agreement”, a contract between the married couple that divides property and debts and resolves other divorce issues. However, having a family law attorney is still recommended, and in case the division of property cannot be settled, then the court must make the determination. Once again, the specifics vary from state to state, but many states allow both parties to keep their separate and nonmarital properties as a starting point. Another thing to know about assets and divorce is how dividing marital or community property works. Again, each state has its specifics, and some states are community property states by definition. For example, the state of California divides equality marital property unless a premarital agreement specifies otherwise. However, most states apply the “equitable distribution” concept where the court divides the marital property as it thinks fair. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50-50 division. The common factors considered by the court include the amount of nonmarital property, each spouse’s earning power, waste and dissipation, fault, services as a homemaker, duration of the marriage, age, health, and others.
When parents can’t agree on custody of their child/children, the court will decide custody based on “the best interests of the child.” There are many factors involved, not one of which is considered the most important.
Joint custody has two parts - joint legal custody and joint physical custody, and a joint custody order can have both or one of the parts. ● Joint legal custody refers to both parents sharing the significant decisions regarding their child/children, which usually include school, health care, and religious training. Other decisions may include summer camps, extracurricular activities, the age for dating or getting a job, discipline methods, etc. ● Joint physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. The amount of time is flexible and can range from dividing the time between the two parents’ equality to visits every other weekend, and so on. The residing addresses of the parents are often considered, and living close is important, especially in situations where the time spent with both parents will be divided equally.
Since 1965, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation enabling grandparents to petition the courts for visitation rights with grandchildren. However, granting such rights is not automatic, and in most cases, grandparents merely have grounds for asking for a visitation order. Most commonly, a grandparent may petition for visitation after the death of a parent or upon divorce of the parents. Some states allow petitions when the child has previously lived with the grandparent, a child is born out of wedlock, and when a parent is incarcerated.
Unlike most legal matters where specifics depend on the state, talking to a judge separately is prohibited in all 50 states. All communication with the judge takes place on the record during a hearing. This is a way of ensuring fairness to both sides, and just as you would not want the judge to talk to the other party without you being present, the judge is not allowed to talk to you without the other party being present.
Only before a judge has done anything on the case, each party files one “peremptory challenge.” It costs $450, and there is no way to waive this fee. A new judge will be randomly assigned to your case, meaning you cannot pick the new judge. Be careful with the strict timing requirements for filing a peremptory challenge, as the money spent on a challenge is not refunded.