How Much Does Divorce Cost?
Short answer: it depends.
There’s no easy answer to the question of how much a divorce will cost.
The bottom line is that the actual cost of getting a divorce will depend on a number of factors.
The good news is that you and your spouse do have some control over the total cost, based on how well you’re able to work together to reach a resolution.
This guide covers the average cost of divorce so you have a sense of what to expect.
How Much Does Divorce Cost if Both Parties Agree?
Working out a plan with a reasonable level of cooperation, playing fair when it comes to the flashpoints that can derail a settlement process, and understanding you will need to compromise will save you thousands of dollars in the bigger picture.
Spouses who are overtly angry with each other, have zero levels of trust, and who want to battle every single point will be the ones who pay the highest financial prices.
Here’s another thing to consider.
Every resource that you spend on getting a divorce is a resource that can’t be used later on to rebuild your life.
This can be especially hard-hitting when children are involved, and you are trying to save money for college, have ongoing childcare expenses or other significant child-rearing costs.
This does not mean you don’t need professional advice.
You absolutely do.
It just means you need to be cognizant about keeping costs down.
If both spouses can agree on all issues, this is known as an uncontested divorce.
Many times, you may not even need to hire a lawyer (you should consult with an attorney in almost all cases), meaning that your biggest expense may be the filing fees you will need to pay when you first turn in your paperwork with the court.
Depending on the state and county where you live, your filing fees may be anywhere from about $100 to $400.
You will need to check with the county where you intend to file for an accurate fee schedule.
Your spouse will need to be served with papers after you file paperwork, and there is generally a small fee associated with this.
A deputy or a process server will need to complete proof of service and this will run less than $100 in most cases.
If you have a limited amount of financial resources, you may be able to file for a fee waiver.
Make your request to the courts and if approved, the fees to file and for proof of service will be waived.
There may be other expenses you will need to incur in some cases.
For example, if you are dividing up pensions, then you will need to pay for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) that is typically be prepared by a QDRO expert.
Costs for this average about $1,000 per QDRO.
Some jurisdictions also have mandatory classes that one or both spouses may need to take. You will be advised if this is the case when you file paperwork.
How Much Does a Divorce Cost on Average?
There are factors that will either drive the cost up or keep them down, depending on your situation.
For example, if you’ve only been married for a short while, and you have few assets that accumulated during the marriage, then dissolving your marriage will be much easier than if you have been married for a long time and have lots of personal property, real estate, business interests, financial assets, children and other issues that could be points of conflict.
If this is your situation, keep in mind that in addition to hiring a divorce attorney, you may also need to work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, tax accountant, real estate appraiser, and other experts to get the best possible advice.
One of the biggest drivers of costs is the divorce process that you choose.
Many couples who are able to reach a level of agreement may be able to complete their divorce with limited use of attorneys.
This could mean that divorcing couples will decide to try mediation or collaborative divorce which generally costs much less than actually going through a traditional litigated divorce, including a hearing in front of a judge.
Couples who use attorneys on a limited basis can expect to spend anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000.
Again, part of this will depend on the specifics of a marriage.
Often times, determining custody and child support costs can become major sticking points, driving up the amount of time it will take to work out a solution, also tacking on legal fees in the process.
Divorcing couples who cannot agree on much of anything and rely heavily on attorneys to work through their disagreements may spend anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000 or more.
Divorce attorneys usually charge anywhere from $150 to $500 per hour for their services, and they will bill you for time spent working on your case.
This includes everything ranging from phone calls, to writing and reviewing emails, correspondence, research and discovery, prepping for court, and actually representing you in court, among many other possible charges.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the longer a divorce drags on, the more expensive it will be.
It is in your best interest to keep the process moving forward.
Also, remember that if you are contemplating hiring a lawyer that you will need to pay them some sort of retainer up front.
This could be as little as $2,000 or up to tens of thousands of dollars to get started.
The amount of the retainer will be driven by how complex your divorce is and the level of animosity between you and your spouse.
How Much Does Divorce Cost with a Child?
The more back and forth that takes place especially when lawyers are involved with definitely drive up the bottom line costs for both spouses.
The other thing that must be taken into account is that in the vast majority of cases, the high earning spouse will be required to pay child support as part of the divorce settlement.
In some states, this is determined by a preset formula that the courts use.
Even when a formula is used, judges often have discretion to raise or lower the amount of child support based on several factors. In other states, judges have more leeway to determine what level of child support must be paid.
If you are the spouse who is required to pay child support, keep in mind that non-payment is not an option.
A divorce decree will spell out the terms of the child support, and the decree is a legal and binding document.
If you fail to live up to the terms of the settlement, you could face civil or criminal penalties that could cost you even more.
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