The Average Cost for Divorce

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

The Average Cost for Divorce

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

Divorce is expensive and the cost varies from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands and beyond. Many different factors determine this wide range. Where you live, the court filing fees, and your attorney's cut all play a role in how much your divorce will cost. By taking these factors into account, you can accurately predict how much you will likely spend to end your marriage.

A man and woman signing paperwork as a woman points to the documents

Legal Fees

When you've made the decision it's time to file for divorce, start saving money for legal fees. Divorce attorneys are not cheap. You might be able to find a divorce lawyer who will take your case for a flat fee but most charge by the hour. The rate for a well-respected divorce attorney can exceed $500 per hour.

Even if you do locate a divorce lawyer who will handle your divorce on a flat rate, that price won't include a trial. If you and your spouse do not agree on many of the terms of your divorce and you suspect you will head to trial, you might need to save even more money.

Depending on where you live and your income level, however, you may qualify for divorce help from your local legal aid clinic. Contact the legal aid office in your county to see if you qualify.

Court Costs and Service Fees

Court costs vary greatly from location to location. It can cost upwards of $500 to file the divorce petition with your local clerk. This step cannot be avoided because you must have a document to serve on your spouse.

Once your divorce petition is verified by the clerk, you now have to serve it on your spouse. This fee is generally more reasonable and serving the paperwork can be done for less than $100. But if your spouse doesn't want to be served or is hard to locate, the cost can quickly increase.

Type of Divorce

If your divorce is uncontested, that helps keep your costs down. But if you and your spouse don't agree on the division of assets or time sharing with your children, your expenses will continue to rise.

A contested divorce requires the help of a trusted divorce lawyer. They can help guide you through the negotiation to resolve your issues, avoiding the time drain and expense of a trial.

Mediation and Negotiation

If your spouse contests your divorce, most courts will order you to attend mediation before going to trial. Courts do this to resolve as many issues as possible ahead of time. If you and your spouse agree on the division of assets but not how to determine custody of your children, then the court only looks at that one issue. Not only does mediation help reduce the time you spend in the courtroom, but it also keeps your costs down.

During mediation, you have to pay for the mediator and can split the cost with your spouse. Mediators usually charge by the hour but their rates are less than divorce lawyers.

When you've realized that divorce is the right step for your family, it's helpful to know the expenses you will face. By planning carefully, you can make sure you're prepared to handle not only the paperwork but also the costs of a divorce.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.