Cost Breakdown of a Divorce: The Average Cost of Divorce

The overall cost of a divorce depends on many different factors, but in a typical situation, each party should expect to spend at least $10,000 on the divorce proceedings.

Please note that there are other expenses besides the cost of lawyers. You’re also likely to pay for the following services:

  • Fees that your county courthouse might charge for filing (exact fees are provided on this page)
  • Training programs or other courses revolving around divorce or parenting after a breakup
  • Mediation (in some cases, you won’t need to pay for attorneys after a mediation, however, that’s not always the case)
  • Consultations with a psychiatrist for adults or the kids
  • Covering mortgage loan

Cost Difference Between Uncontested and Contested Divorce

The instance when a married couple decides to part ways amicably is called an uncontested divorce. It typically costs less, especially if former spouses go through mediation and agree on hot issues like the ownership of their family home. If former partners can’t agree and decide to seek justice in court, they will have to pay more legal fees.

The Average Total Cost of a Contested Divorce

So how much should you expect to pay for the contested divorce? The people who hired a lawyer to handle everything had to pay around $12,900 for everything. $11,300 went to the lawyers and $1,600 went to covering court costs and other applicable fees, like child custody evaluators, tax experts, and so on.

Do not panic just yet, because the average is skewed by a wealthy minority who sometimes spend fortunes on a contested divorce. You can estimate the cost for average people by looking at the median. This is the indication of divorce costs for people who are right in the middle of the spectrum. Our survey showed a median cost of $7,500, which included $7,000 in legal costs and $500 in additional costs. It may also be comforting to know that 42% of the participants in the survey paid less than $5,000 for legal assistance.

The Average Cost of an Uncontested Divorce

If you’re worried about legal costs, consider applying for an uncontested divorce without involving the attorneys. There is a $300 fee for filing the documents. You can file them by yourself or with the aid of an online service. Depending on various factors, such as the type of service and your specific situation, additional costs for using the service will range from $150 to $1,500.

Most attorneys will expect you to pay them a retainer or a down payment of $2,500 to $5,000. Lawyer costs will be deducted from this retainer until you run out of money. Afterward, you might have to put down yet another retainer, or you may be hourly billed. The service of an attorney, on average, will cost you $150 to $400 per hour.

A third, recently trending way to divorce is called a collaborative divorce. In this case, a couple, with the help of an attorney, goes through mediation to settle their differences in a collaborative way and come up with a solution to their problems.

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse hires an attorney to oversee the process. Both parties agree to co-operate throughout the process. If there is a disagreement on certain issues, they can take that issue to court. A rough estimate of a collaborative divorce cost is $10,000. Handling a complex case might cost more, and vice versa.

Average Fees for a Divorce Lawyer

The average hourly cost of hiring a divorce lawyer is roughly $250. However, it is possible to find more affordable ($175 to $200), as well as more expensive ($300 to $325) lawyers.

Hourly costs of a divorce lawyer:

National hourly rate$250/hour
Average range$200-$250/hour
Low-end hourly rate$175-$200/hour
High-end hourly rate$300-$325/hour

You should keep in mind that divorce might cost you more than the usual amount, especially in the following circumstances:

  • If you and your spouse are contesting the divorce
  • can’t find common ground in regards to child custody
  • can’t find common ground in regards to alimony
  • ownership of highly valued marital properties

Some spouses can’t agree on any issue, which leads to a prolonged litigation process, which can further increase the costs. Some couples, after a while of litigation, decide to settle the divorce amicably. Another factor that might influence the overall cost is your state of residence. Court fees may differ between cities, states, and counties. Because of these reasons, some divorces can cost more than $10,000 or even twice that.

Divorce Attorney Fees

Divorce and family law attorneys come up with their fee structures individually. A lot of them request to be paid hourly; some charge fixed amounts or determine the amount depending on how much you earn. It’s out of the ordinary for lawyers to charge unnecessary fees or contingent fees when handling divorces.

You should expect to pay for various types of tasks that an attorney might do for you. For instance, you might be billed for:

  • Case-related phone calls
  • Appearing in court
  • Doing the due diligence
  • Travel costs (to and from the court)
  • Conversations with opposing counsel
  • Drafting court documents.
  • E-mail communication related to the case

Divorce Lawyer Hourly Rate

Due to the complex nature of divorces, it is complicated for an attorney to give you a quote for how much your divorce will cost in its entirety. Because of this reason, a lot of lawyers choose to be paid hourly.

An attorney can determine his/her hourly rate based on multiple factors. Normally, the attorney’s experience and average costs of similar services in your vicinity are the most important factors.

Lawyers who reside in metropolitan areas and have a lot of experience under their belt will charge more than a small-town practitioner. Fees might also differ depending on what the issue is. For instance, mediation, child support, or custody issues will cost you less than entering divorce litigation.

Lawyers who operate under the same firm’s name don’t always charge the same rate. Partners, compared to fresh associates, are more expensive to hire. You will also be charged differently for using the services of a paralegal vs a legal assistant. It is your responsibility to check the credibility of your legal aid and make sure that their hourly fee is relevant to their experience.

Flat fees

In rare cases, an attorney might charge a fixed amount for handling a contested or uncontested divorce. Keep in mind that, in this situation, you and your lawyer should lay out the payment terms for handling unexpected issues if they arise.

Consultation fees

It’s not recommended to hire the first lawyer you come across.

It is smarter to interview at least several attorneys to find the best candidate. Initial consultations with some of the attorneys might be free, while others will charge you the normal rate from the beginning.

However, don’t expect too much from free consultations. They are just quick interviews so that the lawyer can catch up on your case. The attorneys who bill you for this process are more likely to provide helpful legal advice. A lot of times it is justified to spend money on initial consultation. It would be best to do your research to determine the cost and thoroughness of consultation before you arrange a meeting.

Retainer fees

It is common for attorneys to request an advance payment. An attorney will deduct your legal costs from the retainer fee. The exact dollar amount of a retainer is determined based on how the difficulty of your case. It is usually a few thousand dollars.

Do Divorce Lawyers Offer Payment Plans?

Because of the high costs associated with getting a divorce, the majority of law firms and divorce attorneys accept payment plans.

States do not regulate anything related to payment plans for divorcees. It’s your responsibility to find out whether the law firm you want to hire offers a payment plan.

How to Save Money on Divorce Lawyer Fees

Divorces can cost a lot of money, particularly when they’re contested. However, it is possible to reduce your legal fees significantly.

Mediation or collaborative divorce

If you want to pay as little as possible in legal fees, partners should try to resolve their differences out of court. Mediation and collaborative divorces are the most affordable alternatives to a contested divorce. Both of these methods are more peaceful and allow both parties to negotiate their desired results.

Do-it-yourself divorce

A lot of jurisdictions offer online guidelines about handling the paperwork for litigants who want to act as their own attorneys. If your divorce case is simple and there are no disagreements over children or dividing marital property, a do-it-yourself divorce can be a great and affordable solution.

Unbundled services

Individuals who represent themselves in court might need help with specific tasks or have a question. In this case, it is a good idea to get the help of attorneys who offer unbundled services. These attorneys are willing to help people with only a single or few tasks.

Fee waivers

In some cases, you can get a court fee waiver. You can apply for a waiver when you’re with a court clerk filing a petition. Some courts offer waivers for people who earn very little and can’t afford to cover the court fees.

Attorney Fee Factors in Divorce Costs

Certain issues will influence the time it takes for you and your spouse to agree on important details in divorce proceedings. The most common issues are:

  • Custody of the children
  • Value of marital property
  • Tax advice
  • Child support payments

If you’re trying to come up with a rough estimate of how much your divorce will cost, consider these factors. When there is a disagreement on any of the issues, for example – the division of property, chances are, the legal fees are going to be significant.

Divorce Filing Fees and Typical Attorney Fees by State

StateAverage Filing FeesOther Divorce Costs and Attorney Fees
Alabama$400 ($50 administrative fee included)Average fees: $10,000
Alaska$250 (additional $75 fee to file a modification for child custody, visitation, or support, or for spousal maintenance or property division)Average fees: $10,000+
Arizona$280Average fees: $10,000+
Arkansas$165Average fees: $8,000+
California$435 (Ask for a fee waiver)Average fees: $14,000
Colorado$230Average fees: $11,000+
Connecticut$360 (excluding paternity legal action)Average fees: $12,000+
Delaware$165Average fees: $12,000+
District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)$80Average fees: $10,000
Florida$409 (Cost changes per county. Example from Duval County Circuit.)Average fees: $10,000+
Georgia$400Average fees: $11,000+
Hawaii$215 (without minor children), $265 (with minor children)Average fees: $9,000+
Idaho$154 (without minor children), $207 (with minor children)Average fees: $8,000+
Illinois$334 (District specific fees. This example is from Lake County Circuit.)Average fees: $10,000+
Indiana$157Average fees: $9,000
Iowa$185Average fees: $9,000+
Kansas$400Average fees: $8,000+
Kentucky$148 (without an attorney), $153 (with an attorney)Average fees: $8,000+
Louisiana$150 to $250Average fees: $10,000
Maine$120Average fees: $8,000+
Maryland$165Average fees: $11,000
Massachusetts$200Average fees: $12,000+
Michigan$175 (without minor children), $255 (with minor children) (District specific fees. This example is from Wayne County Circuit.)Average fees: $10,000+
Minnesota$365Average fees: $9,000
Mississippi$400Average fees:: $8,000+
Missouri$133.50 (without minor children), $233.50 (with minor children) (District specific fees. This example is from Jefferson County Circuit.)Average fees: $10,000+
Montana$170Average fees: $6,000+
Nebraska$158Average fees: $8,000+
Nevada$217 (first appearance), $299 (joint petition)Average fees: $10,000+
New Hampshire$400Average fees: $9,000+
New Jersey$300Average fees: $12,000+
New Mexico$137Average fees: $6,500+
New York$335Average fees: $13,500+
North Carolina$75 (absolute divorce), $150 (for civil cases in district court)Average fees: $10,000+
North Dakota$80Average fees: $8,000+
Ohio$350 (District specific fees. This example is from Washington County Circuit.)Average fees: $9,000+
Oklahoma$183Average fees: $9,000+
Oregon$301Average fees: $10,000
Pennsylvania$201.75Average fees: $11,000+
Puerto Rico$400Average fees: $10,000
Rhode Island$400Average fees: $10,000+
South Carolina$150Average fees: $10,000
South Dakota$95Average fees: $8,500+
Tennessee$184.50 (without minor children), $259.50 (with minor children)Average fees: $9,500+
Texas$300 (depending on child support or custody factors)Average fees: $12,500
Utah$325Average fees: $10,400
Vermont$90 (if you are a resident of the state), $295 (without a stipulation)Average fees: $9,000
VirginiaUse this calculator to find your district’s fees.Average fees: $11,500
Washington$314Average fees: $10,000+
West Virginia$134Average fees: $8,000+
Wisconsin$184.50 (with no child support or alimony), $194.50 (with child support or alimony)Average fees: $8,500+
Wyoming$85 (District specific fees. This example is from Laramie County Circuit.)Average fees: $9,000

* Payments for photocopies, notary fees mailing, process server expenses, judge’s funds, and other minor fees may be different depending on where you live.

**Because of fluctuation in fees, online information can sometimes be incorrect. Get in touch with your county clerk’s office to get up-to-date information.

Getting a Divorce When You Don’t Have The Money

Despite the high costs associated with a divorce, it is still possible to do it even with limited funds. You should not stay in marriage only because you can’t afford to get a divorce. Here’s what you can do to get divorced on a tight budget:

  • Negotiate an affordable payment plan with your attorney
  • Choose a strategy that involves spending very little time in court
  • Use divorce mediation to reach an agreement
  • Use legal assistance only for some parts of your case (limited scope representation)
  • Make use of free legal advice sometimes offered by family law clinics
  • Check if you’re eligible for legal aid organization’s help

It’s also possible to make use of free consultations offered by many great attorneys. Look up experienced divorce lawyers in your area to go over the details of your divorce. Find out their hourly rate and ask them to give you an estimate of how long the litigation might last.

How Long Does the Average Divorce Case Take?

People are often curious about the duration of a divorce, from the very beginning to the court’s final judgment. According to the findings of our survey, the divorce process, on average, lasts one year. The cases that went to trial tended to last longer. The average duration of divorces that went to trial to resolve a single issue was 18 months. In general, disagreement about many issues led to a prolonged process.

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