By Divorce.com staff
Updated Jan 03, 2023
There’s no question about it: getting a divorce is expensive.
We’re here to help you figure out the exact costs by answering what is probably one of your first questions: how much does a divorce cost in New York, anyway?
How Much Does the Average Divorce Cost in New York?
The average cost of a New York divorce is about $16,000. However, you know it’s a lot more complicated than that. An uncontested divorce will cost you about $5500 on average, while litigation costs a whopping $27,000.
Factors to Consider
Depending on how far you are into your research, you may already have some inkling that an uncontested divorce is generally a lot less expensive than a contested divorce. That’s because you won’t be paying a divorce attorney or specialist to resolve your conflicts.
Alternatively, you may have already paid someone to help with those conflicts in the form of a separation agreement. If you and your spouse are already legally separated, then you’ll be undergoing what’s known as a conversion divorce.
Maybe your divorce is only uncontested because your spouse fails to respond, in which case your divorce will result in a default judgment (a.k.a divorce in NY without spouse signature). In any case, you’re looking at the same basic cost.
In an uncontested divorce, your only legal fee can be the filing fee itself. The minimum divorce filing fee in New York is $335, but that can go up a little depending on the county where you reside and your specific needs.
However, paying just the court fee in a DIY divorce means that you and your spouse are stuck filling out all the New York divorce papers, which is a real hassle. You’re probably better off working with an online divorce service like Divorce.com.
The Cost of Contested Divorce and the Factors Affecting It
The cost of a contested divorce is much less predictable. As a result, we thought it best to give you the full breakdown of factors impacting overall expense.
Factor 1: Fault vs No-Fault Divorce
The first factor impacting the cost of your contested New York divorce is whether you’re filing for a fault or no-fault divorce. You or your spouse will have to make this decision by the time you submit your first divorce document to the court, known as the petition.
The petition initiates your divorce action. To learn about the subsequent steps, check out our article on how to file for divorce in New York.
In a fault divorce, one spouse alleges legal wrongdoing on the other spouse's part, which they must then prove in court. In a New York no-fault divorce, you and your spouse will simply cite irreconcilable differences as the reason your marriage is ending.
This means that, by alleging fault, you will almost certainly require the costly services of a divorce lawyer from a reputable family law firm. The need for an attorney is why alleging fault makes divorce much more expensive.
Furthermore, even though many people also decide to hire an attorney in no-fault cases, alleging fault makes for much longer, more complicated divorce proceedings, meaning that, in all likelihood, your attorney will be able to bill a lot more hours.
Notably, New York divorce law does allow the court to award attorney’s fees at their discretion, but this isn’t something you can count on when you decide to lawyer up.
So, before you pay a lawyer their initial retainer fee to allege fault, try consulting more than one attorney to find out if you have a strong case. You might be better off forgoing the lawyer altogether if you don't.
Factor 2: Which Divorce Method You Choose
All of this lawyer talk reminds us of another important factor that goes into divorce cost: the method of dispute resolution that you and your spouse choose.
Ideally, the two of you can work out your differences regarding issues like child support, child custody, spousal support, and the division of marital property. Then you just need to complete the divorce forms before the court issues you a divorce decree.
If you aren’t so lucky, however, you’ll need to select a professional method of dispute resolution. You may not realize that you actually have a lot of options here.
The most expensive way to negotiate is usually collaborative divorce. In this divorce process, you and your spouse each hire an attorney and a shared team of other professionals like psychotherapists, financial specialists, or child specialists.
Try paying all these folks if you thought a lawyer was a big expense. On the other hand, the collaborative divorce process is a much more peaceful alternative to heading to court, so some couples find it well worth the money to help preserve their family for the sake of their kids.
Sometimes, however, litigation can run you even more because an all-out court battle can go on much longer than a simple collaborative case.
Divorce litigation is what most people think of when they think of divorce, but it’s actually fairly uncommon. In this method, each party must hire an attorney to fight for them in court, and the sky’s the limit regarding expense.
We recommend avoiding a court battle if at all possible. Besides the issue of paying your lawyer, going to court can do a number on your mental health and that of your children.
A popular alternative is divorce mediation, which costs significantly less than litigation. In this method, you and your spouse share the services of a professional called a divorce mediator, who will help facilitate the conversations necessary to reach a deal.
However, your most cost-effective option is an uncontested divorce, either with a service like Divorce.com or on your own if you think you can handle the paperwork…
As you make this crucial decision, you should probably educate yourself on New York’s system for dividing property, known as equitable distribution.
Factor 3: Whether You Have Kids
Kids. For all the joy they give us, they do tend to make our lives more complicated, and our divorces are no exception.
Of course, you know that if you and your spouse have children, you will have to figure out child support and custody. However, you might not expect how much adding these two issues can cost you.
The reason that disputes over the kids tends to cost more than property disputes is pretty obvious if you think about it. People rightfully get very emotional about their children, and big feelings can easily lead to big checks made out to your lawyer.
One thing that’s incredibly important to remember if you feel yourself starting to fight tooth and nail over child support or custody: familial peace is always in your child’s best interest.
Additionally, the battle won’t make a significant difference if you make it to court. New York courts almost always award joint custody (except if one parent is violent or neglectful), and there’s a hard-and-fast formula for calculating support.
Our sincerest apologies to your attorney for letting you in on this little secret!
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in New York?
The average divorce attorney in New York State bills around $350 an hour. Of course, you can expect to pay a bit more in the city or other areas with a high cost of living.
How many hours you’ll need your lawyer to work (if you decide to retain an attorney) depends heavily on the above factors.
As we mentioned above, the basic court fees come out to $335, but you can find more detailed information on the website for your county’s local Supreme Court. We wish we could give you a straight answer, but the fact is that this expense varies based on where you live.
You also might need to pay additional filing fees if your case is more complicated, but once again, you’ll want to check out your local court’s website for more information.
Additional Divorce Filing Costs
If you’re DIY-ing your divorce, the filing fees are the only filing costs you’ll encounter. In other situations, you might find them itemised on your overall bill.
This can actually be a good thing. Some law firms bill at a lower rate for work their paralegals can handle, including preparing and filing your divorce paperwork.
You’ll also want to look for similar information if you work with an online service. Sometimes their advertised rate only covers filling out the forms, but you’ll be responsible for filing and serving them yourself.