If you’re married or thinking about getting married, then divorce may be the last thing on your mind. After all, if you’re happily hitched, divorce could seem completely irrelevant—and even taboo.
But according to the American Psychological Association, as many as 40 to 50% of marriages end in divorce. Though marriage trends are changing and are also impacting divorce trends, the fact is: Getting a divorce isn’t cheap.
Parting ways with someone after vowing to be together forever is never easy, but if you aren’t prepared, the cost of divorce could make the situation even more of a challenge. Though many statistics say the average cost of a typical divorce with a divorce attorney is around $15,000, the reality may be more complex.
Below, you can read about the average cost of divorce and some of the important related costs—from attorney fees to alimony—you might need to factor in if you’re getting one.
What’s the Average Cost for Divorce?
On top of the emotional stressors and heartache that may accompany splitting up with your spouse, divorce often comes with a hefty price tag.
The cost of divorce can vary, depending on which state or country you live in, how amicable the split is, and whether or not you decide to work with a divorce attorney or go another route, such as a do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce. Costs can also shift significantly, depending on whether or not you have kids or need to go to trial.
No two divorces look or cost the same, and looking at the average cost of divorce isn’t always helpful. Still, there are some built-in costs that you may want to consider.
How Much Does a DIY Divorce Cost?
A DIY divorce usually refers to a divorce that requires no involvement from outside parties or professionals; the two spouses are responsible for seeing through the divorce on their own, from start to finish.
Since a DIY divorce requires no legal counsel, it can come with a much smaller price tag. Typically, the only fees involved have to do with preparing your paperwork and filing it with the court that handles divorce cases in your area.
The average cost of a do-it-yourself divorce ranges from $300 to $1,500, depending on other factors like paperwork and court fees, as well as how complicated your case is. It’s worth noting that you’ll have to pay for court and filing fees. These costs vary depending on which county or state you live, but can go up to $450.
There is also an option of an online or internet divorce , where a couple is still in charge of dealing with all the steps of their divorce but uses software, an app, or a website to help them through the process. Costs of internet divorces can vary depending on the program or website.
If you and your spouse are filing for an uncontested divorce—meaning you both agree and have no financial or divorce-related disagreements—and have no children or shared assets, then this may be an option to consider in order to save some money.
Still, it’s important to note that some divorce cases can get extremely complicated, and it may be a sound investment to work with someone who can ensure smoother sailing.
How Much Does a Divorce Mediator Cost?
If you are dealing with a more convoluted situation and don’t feel comfortable filing yourself, but don’t want to shell out for a divorce lawyer, consider working with a mediator.
Divorce mediation is a process in which both spouses collaborate with a neutral third-party person, called a mediator, who guides them through the process of filing for divorce. Generally, the mediator has a handle on the financial and legal aspects of divorce and oversees the process.
The cost of mediation ranges, depending on how entangled the case is. Typically, one can find a mediator whose hourly rates are between $100 and $390 an hour , meaning a full day could cost in the thousands.
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?
The role of a divorce attorney is complex and varies depending on local laws. But for the sake of clarity, a divorce lawyer is generally hired by one or both spouses to help them move through a divorce as seamlessly as possible.
Unlike a mediator, who works with the couple together, a lawyer can only work with one client at a time, so two lawyers may be required if both spouses want their own representation.
Divorce lawyers generally charge on an hourly basis, which can be as much as $650 an hour. On top of this, many lawyers ask for a retainer depending on the complexity of the situation. These initial retainers can be expensive if you and your spouse are not on good terms and the case is poised to be complicated.
All said, a standard divorce overseen by a lawyer can cost, on average, close to $20,000, with at least $15,000 of that amount going to just attorney fees. Divorces requiring litigation, or legal action, can significantly lengthen the process. In fact, divorces that go to trial could reach costs well into the hundreds of thousands.
What About Child Custody?
Divorces can get extremely messy when there are children involved. In a contested divorce, the issue of child custody will likely come up. If the couple is able to agree on a child custody schedule that works for both parents, then that is the easiest path forward. However, this is not always possible.
For divorces involving children and the ironing out of custody details, attorneys tend to charge significantly more due to the sheer amount of time required working with parents to reach an agreement.
In a contested divorce where the parents can’t reach an agreement regarding custody, there are other steps involved, including working with a court-assigned professionals such as a custody evaluator who may interview parents and children, observe each parent at home with the kids, and then evaluate based on their findings. These custody evaluations could cost from $1,000 to as much as $10,000 .
What About Real Estate?
Divorces and real estate often go hand-in-hand. After all, many couples’ largest financial asset tends to be the home they live in.
Couples who share a property may require the help of real estate attorneys or agents who focus on helping couples ascertain the disposition of their homes.
A home appraisal is an unbiased, third-party estimate of a home or condo’s value. And when tension is high, this can be the most sound solution in figuring out a path forward. Even so, appraisal isn’t cheap, and can cost between $600 and $800 .
How Much Is Alimony?
Another potential consideration in a divorce may be alimony, or spousal support. Alimony may not be necessary if a marriage was short or if two spouses earn similar incomes.
If alimony is needed, both individuals will need to agree on the amount of payment and the time payments are to be made. If they are unable to find a middle ground, the court may have to step in.
This process could potentially involve litigation and can be extremely tense, considering review of bank statements, existing debts, tax returns, and other financial documents may be required. Since the process requires legal counsel, alimony decisions can quickly drive up divorce expenses.
Financing a Divorce
Divorces aren’t fun to think about, but the reality is this: Sometimes they just happen. If you find yourself needing to get a divorce, you may be wondering how you’re going to foot the potentially massive bill.
If you and your spouse have savings, consider pooling together as much as you can to put towards divorce costs. Another option is to take out savings from a retirement account, though early withdrawal can come with penalties.
You could also borrow money from relatives or friends, if that’s possible. In some cases, couples may know that divorce is looming and start saving for it ahead of time—as unpleasant as that may be.
Some couples may have to put their divorce fees on a credit card and pay off debt over time at a high interest rate. But there are other options that may be more cost-effective, including a divorce loan.
Many personal loan options have low or no fees, and offer fixed rates that are typically lower than credit cards, depending on your credit score.
If you are thinking you may have to file for a divorce and don’t have the resources available, a personal loan may be a great way to ensure you’re able to get help without breaking the bank.
Ultimately, the cost of divorce may vary greatly depending on your circumstances. Still, you may want to consider finding a way to pay for your divorce so that money doesn’t stand between you and the support you need.
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