How Much Does A Divorce Cost?

Updated August 16, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

How much a divorce will cost can depend on numerous factors. However, whether the divorce is contested or uncontested may be the most important factor in determining its price. An uncontested divorce is typically less complicated as it typically stays out of court. The only thing you may need a judge for is to review the final paperwork.

However, in a contested divorce, since you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of your divorce, you may need a court’s intervention. This is, without a doubt, the costlier option, but for some couples, it may be necessary. 

In a contested divorce, you may need to hire an attorney to represent your interests. You may also need to pay for expert witnesses to testify on your behalf. Costs are also incurred for filing and serving motions. If you hire an attorney, your divorce can cost thousands of dollars. 

If you are considering filing for a legal separation, you should know that this may be just as expensive as filing for a divorce. You may wish to consult with an attorney before you do this just to ensure that the choice you make is best for your situation.

Factors Affecting The Cost Of A Divorce

Ilona Titova/EyeEm
Divorce Can Be A Heavy Process

The average cost for a divorce can vary wildly, no matter the state you live in. Below are some of the factors that can vastly affect the price of your upcoming proceedings:

  • Where you’re getting divorced or legally separated
  • Whether you’re filing the divorce yourself or hiring an attorney
  • Whether you’re entrusting your lawyer to handle the entire divorce or only a portion of it
  • Whether you have children
  • Whether you’re filing your divorce online or obtaining the necessary paperwork from the court
  • Whether you and your spouse are attempting mediation first
  • Whether you and your spouse agree on all major issues
  • Whether your divorce needs to go to trial to be resolved

If your case needs to go to a hearing or a trial, you may decide to hire a lawyer to represent you, or you may represent yourself. 

Acting Pro Se

A “pro se” litigant is someone who wishes to represent themself in a court of law. If you do not want to hire an attorney, and you and your spouse wish to handle everything yourselves, then you are proceeding “pro se.” If you choose to represent yourself, you can finalize your divorce for as little as $500, maybe even less.

There are divorce kits online that you can purchase, which include all the necessary forms to help you get divorced. The kits range between $100 and $200, and you will then have to factor in the necessary fees associated with each form, which can raise the total cost of the divorce to those above $500. However, you may qualify for an exception if you cannot afford the filing fees.

You can also find these forms for free via your state’s judicial website. Typically, the website will have detailed instructions to help you fill out these forms. Your local courthouse may also offer copies of the forms. If either of those options does not work, you can also research the necessary format to create your forms, which you should be able to track down via a public law library.

Hiring An Attorney

Hiring an attorney to represent you in your divorce can vastly change how much you spend on obtaining that divorce. While some attorneys may charge you a flat fee for an uncontested divorce, others may charge retainer fees. A retainer fee is a kind of deposit you pay toward your legal fees, and the attorney holds it in escrow and dips into it as needed. Cases that are litigated almost always start with a retainer.

Getty/AnnaStills

If the attorney uses up the retainer, they may charge you additional fees until the divorce is finalized. Attorney fees include, but are not limited to:

  • Phone calls
  • The composition of emails and text messages to both you and the opposing counsel
  • Preparations for court appearances, depositions, and discovery
  • The preparation and review of legal briefs and correspondence
  • Legal research

If, however, the divorce is finalized before the attorney can use up the full retainer, they are to return the unused portion to the client. And whether you pay a retainer upfront or are charged along the way, each attorney may charge different amounts for the services they provide.

The attorney may also charge you more if children are involved in the divorce. This is because an excessive amount of time must be devoted to ensuring that all issues are resolved about custody, visitation, and child support, as well as other issues involved with deciding which parent gets to decide what and when. This can refer to everything from the medical insurance covering the children to their extracurricular activities and the religion they will be raised in.

Fees For An Uncontested Divorce When Working With An Attorney

The average flat rate for an uncontested divorce can vary depending on whether or not you hire a lawyer. Without hiring a lawyer, an uncontested divorce may cost as little as $200, while one involving a lawyer may cost around $2000. How much you pay depends mainly on the number of assets vs. liabilities you have and whether there are any children in the marriage. Attorneys who work on retainer will bill your initial deposit at an hourly rate of what is usually a maximum of $450 per hour.

Location can be just as crucial in the legal field as it is in real estate. Lawyers who practice in larger cities can charge even more than $450 per hour, while those who work in rural areas may charge less than $250 per hour. In other words, a divorce in Kentucky may be a different price than one in New York.

Extra Fees

No matter which route you choose to go, you may incur extra costs. It doesn’t matter if you go pro se or hire an attorney, file for an uncontested divorce or take the matter to court. Extra fees will come up, so planning for them in advance can be a wise choice.

For instance, state courts charge a fee for filing a divorce petition, which averages out to be about $200. If you and your spouse are not on good terms and you need to serve your spouse with the necessary paperwork to begin a contested divorce, you may need to pay an additional $35 to $100 in process service fees. These fees may be higher if you do not know where your spouse lives currently, and the process server has to dig a little deeper to find the person.

However, if you are on friendly terms with your spouse, they can simply sign an acceptance of the petition or a waiver of service, which can then be filed with the appropriate state court. Overall, it may be a good idea to budget an additional $300 to $350 on top of what you already budgeted for your divorce.

Additional Options

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Divorce Can Be A Heavy Process

If none of these options sound ideal insofar as how you want your divorce to go, you can consider consulting with online legal services, who will prepare the paperwork to ensure you don’t miss anything or mess anything up. This service costs, on average, about $300, and it’s typically cheaper than hiring an attorney, though pricier than filling out the forms yourself. Here, you’re paying for peace of mind, rather than worrying about filling the forms out incorrectly.

You may also want to consider hiring an attorney by the hour who can review the paperwork for you as you complete it. This may cost less than the attorney’s charge as a flat rate for a contested divorce, and you will not be obligated to pay a retainer fee. Here, you’re not hiring an attorney per se; instead, you’re buying their time by the hour for a specific service. This is called “limited scope representation,” and you get to decide which part of the divorce you want your attorney to handle.

If you only want to hire an attorney to review the documents you create, you can save thousands of dollars in legal fees. You can also arrange with your attorney to pay for some services but not others. While you will pay them to prepare and review papers, you will not be billed for phone calls and emails.

The costs and processes involved in getting a divorce can be overwhelming, and a person going through it may require help to get through it. Online counseling can benefit someone experiencing financial strain because of divorce. It offers convenience and easy connection to therapy, which can be especially beneficial to someone with limited time due to a divorce process. Online therapy is also cost-effective, which can be important for individuals already experiencing financial restraints because of the cost of divorce. 

Studies have shown that online cognitive behavioral therapy can be as effective as traditional therapy in addressing mental health concerns related to divorce. So, if you feel overwhelmed by the costs and processes involved in your divorce, you can consider contacting one of our licensed counselors for professional help and advice.

Takeaway

The cost of a divorce varies widely depending on factors such as your location, whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, whether you hire a lawyer or handle the proceedings yourself, whether there are children involved, and whether the divorce needs to go to trial. An uncontested divorce can cost as little as $500 if handled pro se, while an uncontested divorce handled with the help of an attorney may cost an average flat rate of $2,000. On the other hand, a contested divorce can cost thousands of dollars if it goes to trial, especially if you hire a lawyer to represent you. Considering all of these factors may be beneficial before proceeding with a divorce. It may also help to consult an attorney to determine the best approach for your situation.

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