While the entire process of going through a divorce is emotionally harrowing, it can be financially draining too and spending a lot of money on getting a divorce is probably something that you would like to avoid.
Divorce can get expensive and is known to cause bankruptcy, can ruin lives and the future of your children too. So, the common question is that on average, how much does a divorce really cost? However, before we actually go on to looking at the cost of getting a divorce, you must understand the factors that actually impact the cost of divorce and this can vary widely depending on each case. So, how much does a simple divorce cost? Continue reading below:
Key Factors that Affect the Cost of Divorce
The key factors which have an impact on the cost of divorce are:
- The method of divorce.
- The attorney you decide on.
- The state and/or the county where you reside.
- The complexities of your divorce case.
- Level of conflict or support between your spouse and you.
No two divorces are alike and so, when you are determining the cost of the divorce, you must consider the specific situation and the complexities of the divorce.
Types of Divorce Options and Their Associated Average Costs
If you are planning on getting a divorce from your spouse you can consider the various ways in which you can get divorced such as DIY, using an online service, hiring an attorney and collaborative process.
Do-It-Yourself or DIY Divorce
How Does DIY Divorce Work?
A DIY divorce is where your spouse and you are completely responsible for completing all the documentation and steps required to get a divorce. In a DIY divorce, there is no involvement of any external legal professionals.
You can opt for a DIY divorce if:
- The divorce is uncontested. where all the major issues like division of property, alimony and child custody have been settled between your spouse and you.
- If you are satisfied that you have the complete information regarding the assets and debts of your family and these are not complicated.
- And, you are comfortable in terms of the arrangements for your children with respect to child support, custody, visitation rights, etc. In short, if you feel that the settlement is reasonable and fair.
DIY Divorce Tips
Some of the tips for a DIY divorce:
- You need the time to research the divorce laws of your state, gather all the documentation and then attend all the court filings and appearances and also have the temperament to deal with all the emotions that may arise due to the divorce.
- If you have some issues such as alimony or visitation rights that you are unable to agree about in a DIY divorce, you can arrive at a consensus by making use of a divorce mediator or a professional who can achieve a closure in several controversial issues. Divorce mediation can also help you save money.
- If there is a lot of unresolved anger which can make your spouse potentially dangerous for you or your children or if you feel that your spouse is transferring any joint assets or hiding money, then it is better to avoid a DIY divorce.
- If you want any information regarding how to go about a DIY divorce, you can check with your county clerk office or the county clerk website.
- If you are unable to prepare all your documents to file your divorce, you can get LDPs (legal document preparers), online divorce services or paralegals to do it for you. While they cannot give you legal advice, they can prepare the documents on the basis of the information given by you and file your forms with the court.
- If you’re not sure that a DIY divorce is right for you, then it’s a good idea to consult with a divorce attorney, who can help you get information about a DIY divorce and decide if you require the protection and guidance of an attorney.
- There may be some tax considerations in the long run in the case of some divorces. So, before you sign off on a DIY divorce filing, it is a good idea to consult a financial advisor, tax preparer or accountant who can give you information on the potential tax issues that can crop after your divorce.
- In the case of a same-sex marriage, divorce can be more complicated and so, it is a good idea to involve an attorney.
Cost for a DIY Divorce
DIY divorce is the most inexpensive option and the only fees you require to pay are related to the preparation of the documents and the filing of the papers. The average cost for a DIY divorce can range anywhere between $300-$1500 depending on the complexity of your case, paperwork fees and the court.
You will incur around $300 pertaining to the filing and court fees, no matter what and the additional costs usually are incurred for paperwork and valuations that the courts may require.
File an Online Divorce
How Does an Online Divorce Work?
Today, getting an online divorce is becoming an extremely popular method for couples who want to end their marriage. Online divorce is similar to DIY divorce and the couple is responsible for all the processes required to get a divorce. Many states allow you to file for your divorce online; however, they have very specific requirements in the case of online filing.
If you’re filing an uncontested divorce, then there are several companies that provide divorce forms online, where on the basis of the information you provide, the software or website prepares all your documentation required to file for a divorce. Some companies also have paralegals or attorneys who will review the papers, while others require you to fill out the forms on your own.
While the convenience of online divorce filing cannot be understated, it is an excellent way to save time, as well as, money. However, online filing is not suitable for everyone and if you have unresolved issues, then it is better that both you and your spouse retain your attorneys rather than opting to go through an online service provider.
Online Divorce Tips
- It is not a good idea to opt for an online divorce in the case of a contested divorce, where your spouse and you are unable to agree on major issues. While it may be a great option to have a website prepare your divorce, but you have to live with the divorce agreement that will be extremely difficult to change at a later date. So, it makes more sense to use an attorney for a contested divorce.
- Online divorce may not be very expensive, but the websites offering the service charge for them, which may be cheaper than the fees of an attorney. However, the online fees can depend on the complexity of your case.
- There are many scam online divorce sites. So, it is a good idea to do your research and check before you decide to use a particular online service. Also, the websites may be difficult to navigate and you may have to fill out several forms.
- Filing for divorce online does not really guarantee that you won’t have to go to court. Once the judge goes through the documents filed by the online service, he/she may find the necessity to speak to your spouse or you, especially if there are children involved.
- Online divorce providers are not attorneys and only help you fill out the paperwork required to file your divorce. However, if you have queries regarding the process of divorce, child custody, property distribution, etc. the online provider may not be able to help you can it is better to consult an attorney for these issues.
- Divorce laws vary according to each state and it can be complex. While several of these online sites offer forms for all the states, there may be specific nuances in the law of your state that may affect your situation and an online filing may be harmful.
Cost for an Online Divorce
Registering with an online divorce service provider will cost around $159 – $300 approximately. And, just like other options for divorce, the fees for the paperwork and court-related fees can range between $300-$1,500. So, if you decide to opt for an online divorce, you would incur a total cost of around $600-$1,800.
How Does an Attorney-Driven Divorce Work?
In this case, one or both spouses hire an attorney to help them with the steps of getting a divorce. However, an attorney represents only one spouse, unlike a mediator who is a neutral party and works for both your spouse and you.
The job of an attorney is to essentially advocate for the spouse that hired them and get a favorable outcome for the client. In the case of a divorce involving an attorney, there are several steps involved and the procedure varies according to the state, the county and the specific couples.
In a standard attorney-driven divorce process, each spouse hires his/her own attorney to identify, resolve and negotiate the various issues in order to end the marriage. The attorneys from both sides will carry out the negotiations on behalf of the couple and if there is no agreement reached on more than a single issue with this process, the divorce will be taken to the family court.
Once a court date is set, each attorney prepares their case and throughout the trial, documents will be presented along with arguments pertaining to the merits of the positions. Sometimes, outside experts, witnesses and even the children of the couple may be asked to testify.
Finally, the judge will decide on the outcome regarding various issues such as property division, child custody, child support, alimony, etc.
Attorney-Driven Divorce Tips
- If there are issues such as abuse (child, spousal or substance), then it makes sense to hire an attorney to represent you.
- If the spouse is being dishonest or spiteful and you are unable to cope, then it is a good idea to hire an attorney to protect your interests.
- If your spouse has hired an attorney, then you should hire one to represent you too, especially if you are having complex financial issues, children, etc.
- You must hire an attorney who is experienced in the particular divorce process you would like to use i.e. litigation, mediation, collaborative, etc. It is very important to match the attorney with the divorce process you want.
- You must decide what type of legal services you require. If you own companies, have a complex financial situation or have a lot of assets, then you will require a big law firm to handle your case or an attorney who understands finances. However, if your marriage is recent, you have no kids or assets, then a solo attorney can handle your divorce.
- The best way to find a good divorce attorney is by word of mouth. So, you can ask your friends, relatives or other lawyers for referrals of a good divorce lawyer.
- It is a good idea to meet up with a few attorneys before you finally choose one whose approach you prefer.
- Make a list of important questions you want to ask your lawyer beforehand and take notes.
- Finally, choose a divorce attorney who makes you feel comfortable.
Cost for an Attorney-Driven Divorce
Usually, divorce attorneys charge for time. So, every communication that the attorney undertakes on your behalf, you will be charged for it, which may include every meeting, call, letter drafted, email, court appearance that the attorney makes for you.
Typically, the average fee charged by divorce attorneys per hour can be between $200 and $500 per hour. You may have to pay the attorney a retainer of around $3,500-$10,000 at the beginning, depending on the complexity of your case. A regular attorney-driven divorce can set you back by $15,000-$32,000 and any divorce case that goes to trial can cost between $75,000-$200,000 for a couple.
How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?
Also known as the collaborative law process, this is a hybrid between divorce mediation and traditional attorney-driven divorce, where each spouse hires his/her own attorney who is specially trained to use the collaborative process.
Several meetings take place between the couple and their attorneys and sometimes, external professionals such as therapists, financial specialists, child specialists, coaches, etc. attend the meetings to negotiate the various issues and arrive at an agreement.
The couple, as well as their attorneys, sign a contract or a participation agreement which commits them to use cooperative methods to negotiate the various issues pertaining to the divorce instead of combative methods. If the collaborative process does not enable the parties to reach an agreement on the various issues, then the divorce attorneys representing the couple will be dismissed and the couple will go to the family court for the divorce litigation proceedings and will need to start afresh with new lawyers.
Collaborative Divorce Tips
- Commitment is the key to success in the case of collaborative divorce and you must trust the process.
- The collaborative divorce process involves two attorneys along with a panel of other professionals, which is an efficient method of handling all the details and finding solutions.
- To ensure that the process is smooth, do all the assignments such as gathering your financial data, income tax returns, etc. given to you by your collaborative attorney and come prepared for meetings to ensure that the time is not wasted and process not delayed.
- In a collaborative divorce process, avoiding lengthy and expensive litigation can be a win-win for both parties. So, it is a good idea to enter the negotiations with the idea of finding solutions and not having to win everything. You may also have to compromise in order to reach an agreement.
- Have an open mind and while you get your point across, make sure that you listen to your spouse and this way the process will move ahead smoothly and you can arrive at solutions that work best for both. If there are any impasses, then your collaborative attorney and the other members of the team will help to resolve the issues.
- Ensure that all your concerns are being addressed throughout the process and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them. Understanding all the issues and your comfort is key to making the collaborative divorce process a success.
Cost for a Collaborative Divorce
The cost for a collaborative divorce can vary depending on your spouse’s and your requirements and the professionals involved. Depending on the complexity of the case, the level of cooperation between the couple and the number of external professionals involved in the process, the fees for a collaborative cost can range between $25,000-$50,000.
So, as you can see, the cost of a divorce can cost from as low as $300 to even $200,000. It all depends on your particular situation and the divorce method you opt for. You may be tempted to choose the cheapest option; however, that’s being unrealistic.
Divorce is personal to the individual and each situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all kind of solution. One method that works for someone, may not work in your situation. And so, it’s extremely important to research all the divorce options, compare them and then decide on the one that will work best for you.
A legal researcher by trade, Steffan serves as the Editor for all of eDivorce’s helpful guides and blog posts. He loves writing about the legal process in an effort to help reduce the complexities of the legal system. Learning from his own personal divorce, he enjoys sharing what has helped him, what didn’t, and how to move on with your life.