If you’re considering divorce, thinking about the costs may weigh heavily on you. Divorce can be expensive, but there are ways to keep the cost down. Here’s what you need to know.
Different Ways To Get a Divorce
A divorce is a legal proceeding that dissolves your marriage. Once the process is complete, you’ll receive a final decree of divorce, which is a court order that terminates the marriage. But before you get to that point, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will have to make some decisions. And pay some money.
The Costs Associated with a Divorce
When you get divorced, you have to file a legal document with the court in order to dissolve your marriage. The costs associated with this are minimal — usually a few hundred dollars, depending on the state.
The largest cost associated with a divorce is attorney’s fees. This can vary widely, but the biggest factor in this cost is whether your divorce is contested or not — that is, whether you both agree to divorce — and whether or not it has to go to trial.
Do I Need an Attorney to Get Divorced?
Not necessarily. But there are a lot of decisions that need to be made in order to divorce, and some couples need an attorney to help them answer some questions.
Questions Can Include:
- Who will retain which assets from the marriage? In most divorces, each spouse retains those assets they brought into the marriage, but decisions need to be made about assets that were acquired during the marriage.
- If there are debts, who will be responsible for them? Will the marital home need to be sold, or can one partner buy the other out and keep the house?
- If there are children, which parent will they live with? Or will they split their time between two houses? Will the non-custodial parent have visitation rights? If so, what are the specifics of that? Who will make medical, educational and legal decisions for the children as long as they are still minors? How will the costs associated with childrearing be shared, including college?
- If there is a prenuptial agreement, is it enforceable? Are there provisions in it that need to be addressed?
- Will alimony be paid, and if so, how much? Alimony is relatively rare in divorce cases now, but if one spouse is financially dependent on the other, it may be ordered. This means that you relied on your spouse for financial support during the marriage, you don’t have enough assets to provide for your own needs, and you cannot work to support yourself.
Depending on your specific situation, there may be other issues you’ll need an attorney to help you resolve.
How Much Does a Divorce Attorney Cost?
According to Nolo.com, the average cost for a divorce attorney is $270 per hour. This can vary widely, however, as some attorneys charge at little as $100 per hour or as much as $400 per hour or more. How much you pay can also vary based on where you live. In large cities, like New York or Los Angeles, a divorce attorney can charge more, while those in smaller towns usually charge less.
How Much Does Divorce Really Cost?
The more contentious your divorce, the more it’s likely to cost since the attorney will have to spend more hours working out the details. This makes it difficult to predict how much a divorce will cost you, but a survey by Nolo.com found that:
- The median cost of a divorce with an attorney is $7,000.
- The average cost of a contested divorce, settled out of court, is $10,600.
- The average cost of a contested divorce that goes to trial is $20,400.
- The average cost of an uncontested divorce is $4,100.
- The average cost for a consulting attorney is $4,600.
- The average cost for private divorce mediation is $3,000 to $8,000.
How To Keep Costs Down in a Divorce
There are ways to keep your costs to a minimum when you’re getting a divorce. Here are some ideas.
Consider the Following:
- Agree on as much as you can before you consult an attorney. Discuss how you will divide up your assets, and how you will share custody of your children if there are any. The more things you can agree on before you sit down with a lawyer, the fewer things the lawyer will have to help you resolve, and the less time it will take.
- Consider mediation or collaborative divorce. This allows couples to use one attorney instead of two. Since the attorney isn’t working for one spouse or the other, their job is to help you to come to an agreement that suits you both, and to help you through the process to completion.
- Use a consulting attorney. If you have specific concerns around your divorce — a family business, perhaps, or a future inheritance — a consulting attorney may be able to help with those particular details. By using an attorney for only these issues, you can save some money.
Of course, if your divorce is acrimonious and you and your spouse can’t agree on anything, using an attorney — and even going to court — may be unavoidable. This will increase the time and the amount of money you have to spend to get a divorce. But it could pay off for you in the long run, particularly if you feel your spouse may be taking advantage of you. An attorney can protect your interests in the divorce, particularly if you are not the family breadwinner and will need a source of income after the marriage ends.
How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced?
Divorce also takes time, and time is money. You can, however, save yourself some time, in many of the same ways you can save yourself some money. By deciding as many issues as possible before you get to the attorney’s office, you’ll save time negotiating these things.
According to Nolo.com, the average divorce takes about 12 months from start to finish. If your divorce goes to court, however, you can expect it to take longer. No one wants to think that their happily ever after won’t last forever, but if it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean it has to cost a fortune to end it. Try to put your hurt and anger aside to focus on the practicalities, so you can start fresh.
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- WomensLaw.org. 2020. "Can I Get Alimony? For How Many Years Would I Get the Payments?"
- Nolo. "How Much Will My Divorce Cost?"