How Much Does It Cost to Get Divorced?

by J.D. Written by Team eLocal.
graphic showing the costs of contested uncontested and trial divorce

Most people going through a divorce will tell you that it can be a stressful experience, and one of the biggest worries is often the costs involved.

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Understanding what fees you might need to pay and how much divorce lawyers charge can help reduce uncertainty as you begin the process.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost on Average?

Trying to estimate how much your divorce will cost based on national averages isn't always helpful because costs vary widely depending on your exact situation. However, understanding how the costs add up can help you get a rough idea of how much you'll pay.

According to a recent study by Nolo, the average cost of a divorce is around $11,300 if you hire a lawyer. However, this average includes individuals who paid significantly more than the norm, making it higher than the fees paid by most people. The median cost was around $7,000, which is probably a more realistic estimate of what most people pay. This figure doesn't include additional expenses.

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How Much Does It Cost to File for Divorce?

The spouse who files for the divorce must pay a filing fee to the courts. Generally, the other spouse will then pay a fee to file their response. Costs can vary by area, but you should expect to pay between $100 and $400. Some states reduce the fee if both spouses file for divorce together. 

Your family circumstances can affect how much it costs to file for divorce. For example, some courts charge more if you have minor children. Meanwhile, you may pay less if you meet the eligibility criteria for simplified proceedings, and courts will often waive filing fees for people on low incomes who can't afford to pay.

How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?

Based on data from Thumbtack, the national average hourly rate to hire a divorce lawyer is around $250, but prices can fall in the range between $175 and $325. Generally, you'll pay toward the upper end of the scale for an attorney with extensive experience in family law. You'll also pay more for an attorney in areas with a high cost of living, such as major cities, while attorneys in rural areas are generally more affordable. 

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Does a Contested Divorce Cost More Than an Uncontested One?

A “contested divorce" means the couple can't agree on specific issues, such as child custody and support or division of assets. A contested divorce usually costs more than an uncontested divorce because the couple will need to spend more time working through the issues with lawyers.

According to Nolo, most people pay around $4,100 for an uncontested divorce using lawyers. Meanwhile, people going through contested divorces usually pay around $10,600, including the cost of hiring lawyers to help resolve their disputes. 

If a couple can't reach an agreement, they'll need to go to trial to have a judge rule on the contested issues. These divorces are significantly more expensive, costing over $20,000, with even more tacked on if several issues are contested. Keep in mind that expenses vary significantly based on geographic area and the complexity of issues involved. 

Are There Any Other Expenses to Be Aware Of?

Some people will need to consult other specialists to reach a divorce settlement, and whether you require these services depends on your circumstances. For example, you may need to hire a tax advisor or real estate appraiser. The median cost of these services is around $500. Private investigators and expert witnesses can also add significant expenses. 

Courts sometimes charge additional fees for filing papers and hiring servers. You may also need to pay to receive a certified divorce decree.

How Can You Save Money on a Divorce?

An alternative to hiring a full-scope divorce lawyer is to engage a consulting attorney. These attorneys can advise at crucial points in the divorce process, such as helping you propose a settlement. The median cost of hiring a consulting divorce attorney is around $3,000.

Mediation services can also help you reach an agreement with your partner without using lawyers, which can often be more affordable. Mediation is often a good option for uncontested divorces when a couple needs help ironing out a few minor issues. Private mediation companies usually charge between $100 and $300 per hour, according to Thervo. You may be entitled to free or low-cost court-sponsored mediation if your dispute relates to child custody.

The cheapest way to get divorced is to handle the process yourself or use an online divorce service. These services cost between $150 and $500 and guide you through the process so you understand which forms you need to submit and how to complete and file them. Most people who go through a divorce without lawyers or mediators pay around $925 in total. 

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