The Average Cost of an Uncontested Divorce

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

The Average Cost of an Uncontested Divorce

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Getting divorced is not only an emotional experience, but also costly, especially if you're not prepared and you don't explore your options. If both you and your spouse agree on the divorce, the distribution of your property, and the care for your children, including custody, visitation, and child support, then you can file for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is simpler and more cost-effective than a contested divorce, when the parties don't agree on one or more issues.

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If you're deciding on a divorce, you should understand the divorce process, what options you have, the length of time for the legal proceedings to conclude, and the cost.

Without an Attorney

To file for an uncontested divorce on your own, you have some options. First, you and your spouse can submit the required paperwork with your local family court. The court will then provide you with the forms you'll need, such as a petition for divorce and a parenting plan, which outlines the care for your children. After you file your documents and wait for the required period mandated by your state laws, you'll appear in front of the judge to finalize your divorce. Make sure you understand the laws of your state when completing your forms for divorce, such as alimony, child support and property distribution.

You also have the option to file for an uncontested divorce using an online service. Generally, these services will walk you through the process of completing and filing the necessary documents for divorce required by your state. Check your state laws to confirm that filing for a divorce online is permissible.

Filing for an uncontested divorce yourself, without the aid of an attorney, is the cheapest route. You'll have approximately a $300 fee to file your documents with the court, whether you file yourself or with the help of an online service. If you use an online service to help you, costs can range from $150 to $1,500 depending on the service itself and your specific situation, in addition to the filing fee.

With an Attorney

If you opt to have an attorney help you, an attorney will advocate for you and your wishes throughout the divorce process. Hiring an attorney may be beneficial if you have a complicated divorce, or if you and your spouse disagree on specific issues.

An attorney can only represent one spouse; you cannot share an attorney with your soon-to-be ex. Your attorney will help you negotiate aspects of your divorce, such as the division of property, the custody of your children, and the settlements of any debts. Once your attorney files all necessary documents and the court date is set, the attorney will accompany you to court and present your case to the judge for final determination.

If you choose to hire an attorney for an uncontested divorce, the cost will be less than a contested divorce. However, the more complex your case is, or if you do have a contested case, then your attorney fees will increase.

Typically, you'll need to pay your divorce attorney a retainer, or a down payment, of $2,500 - $5,000. Your attorney will charge you against this retainer until the money runs out. After that, you may have to put down an additional retainer, or your attorney may bill you by the hour. Average hourly attorney fees are anywhere from $150 to $400 per hour.

Through the Collaboration Process

A third option that has become popular over the past few years is collaborative divorce. This type of divorce is a hybrid between hiring an attorney and mediation, which is when both spouses work together to find a solution to their issues.

In a collaborative divorce, each party has an attorney familiar with this process. Each party agrees to resolve their issues cooperatively. If the parties can't agree on specific issues, then they can go to court to resolve any outstanding issues. The cost range for a collaborative divorce can start around $10,000, depending on the complexity of your case.

You have several ways to get a divorce, and the costs vary. Be sure to check with your state law to understand what options are available to you. If you believe you and your spouse can come to agreements on crucial matters, then an uncontested divorce may be the best solution all around.

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.

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