How Much Does a Divorce Cost?

The average cost of divorce in the United States ranges between $7,000 and $23,000. This cost assumes a typical cost of $300 to $400 per hour, which a family law attorney might charge. If you’re able to go the route of an uncontested divorce, you might pay as little as $2,000 if you hire a divorce lawyer, or even less with a do-it-yourself option. Keep in mind that, the cost of a divorce varies based on divorce type, state, and divorce circumstances.

What Makes Divorce Expensive? 

In general, the total hours a family law lawyer bills a client makes a divorce expensive. In addition, other factors can add to the cost of a divorce. Knowing these factors can help you make informed decisions when getting into a divorce. Here are some of the elements that make divorce expensive. 

Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

For most people going through a divorce, the cost of hiring a lawyer is the biggest expense. The cost depends on what the divorce lawyer charges per hour. For example, every time a client calls their divorce lawyer to ask a question or update a contract, they will be billed. If you plan to hire a lawyer, it’d be best to check the lawyers’ fees and payment terms and determine whether you can afford them. But this doesn’t mean you should go for the cheapest lawyer because if the lawyer is inexperienced, the entire process can be compromised, and you may end up paying more. 

Type of Divorce You Choose

A contested divorce is more costly than an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on various issues when going through a divorce, the best option would be a contested divorce where you let the court decide for you. This is expensive. You will likely hire a lawyer to handle the case for you. Many lawyers charge an hourly rate and ask for a retainer fee. When you add up everything, the average cost becomes high. 

Custody Battles and Child Support 

If you and your spouse have kids and do not agree on custody and child support, the divorce will likely be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. The divorce may have to proceed to court, which means you will pay a lot of money in the long run. The court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, and there may also be costly psychiatric examinations. If your attorney decides to call an expert witness, it will also make the divorce expensive.  

Marital Assets and Finances 

Joint accumulation of assets such as retirement plans, businesses, real estate, and other properties also make divorce expensive if you decide to go to court. Your lawyer may hire a financial analyst or real estate appraiser to analyze your assets. This comes at a cost, and you will likely chip in. 

What is the Cheapest Cost for a Divorce? 

The cheapest divorce might cost $2000 or less. Less expensive divorces tend to be uncontested, and reduce the hours charged by a divorce lawyer. The rates vary from lawyer to lawyer, your state, the kind of divorce you choose, and the circumstances of your divorce. However, the final cost is what matters. Your lawyer can determine the overall cost depending on how many hours they spend on your case and other multiple factors. 

Who Pays Court Fees in a Divorce? 

In most cases, each party is responsible for paying their lawyers during a divorce. However, there are situations where one spouse may be ordered to pay the legal fees for the other. This can happen if:

  • One spouse is dependent on the other, like a stay-at-home parent with little or no income. 
  • One party’s conduct was in bad faith, which caused the litigation to prolong, increasing legal fees. 
  • One spouse removes the other from shared accounts, leaving the dependent spouse with little or no money. 

There is no law supporting gender-based decisions regarding paying the fees. For instance, the wife cannot force her soon-to-be ex-husband to pay the fees just because she is a woman. The court analyzes the above factors and determines who pays the court fees.

How long is the Divorce Process?

The divorce process can take 3 to 18 months, or more. The time depends on the type of divorce you choose and the divorce circumstances. An uncontested divorce can take as little as 3 months, sometimes even less. In contrast, a contested divorce can last for 18 months or more, depending on your state, the complexity of your divorce, child support, and child custody and alimony issues.