How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce?

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By Brette Sember, JD Updated Mar 20, 2024


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If you are having marital problems and are considering ending your marriage, the cost of divorce is likely a big question in your mind. Divorce can be a significant expense, with some hidden costs you may not anticipate.

Find out the median cost of divorce and what to expect.

Key Takeaways

  • Divorce expenses vary widely, influenced by factors like contestation, divorce method, location, and case complexity.
  • On average, divorce costs $11,300 per spouse, but over 40% spend less than $5,000, showing a broad cost spectrum.
  • Significant costs include filing and attorney fees, with additional expenses for experts, counseling, and legal proceedings.
  • The average hourly rate for divorce attorneys is $270, but it can vary considerably based on the case details and location.
  • Options like pro se representation, mediation, and collaborative divorce can lower expenses.
  • Factors like asset complexity, children, and high-conflict situations can escalate divorce costs.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost

The cost of a typical divorce depends on a wide range of factors.

Whether the divorce is contested or uncontested is the first consideration. If you and your spouse are in agreement about everything, the divorce will be much less expensive than if you have a lot of contested issues such as property division, custody, child support, and spousal support.

The method you use to get a divorce also impacts the cost. Options include:

  • Litigated traditional divorce: Both parties hire attorneys who take the divorce to trial.
  • Mediated divorce: The parties work with a mediator to work out an agreement, which is then submitted to the court.
  • Collaborative divorce: The parties work with attorneys who agree only to negotiate and not to take the case to a trial.
  • Pro se divorce: No lawyers are involved, and the parties submit the divorce on their own.

Your geographic location impacts divorce costs, with attorney costs higher in large cities.

How combative you and your spouse are impacts how long it takes to complete the divorce and how many hours attorneys have to spend on the case, impacting the cost. Also, the complexity of the assets and issues in your case directly affect the cost.

The Average Cost of Divorce

According to a study by Martindale-Nolo, the average cost of divorce is $11,300 for each spouse. However, more than 40% of respondents spent less than $5,000, and 9% spent over $30,000, so your cost really does depend on your circumstances.

According to the study, the median cost of divorce in the U.S. is $7,000 for each spouse.

What Expenses Are There in a Divorce?

There are many expenses involved in a divorce that you should be aware of.

Filing Fees

Each state has its own divorce filing fees, and there may be additional fees for filing other papers, such as motions. State divorce filing fees range from $80 in North Dakota to $450 in some areas of California.

You can ask the court for a fee waiver if you can't afford the filing fee. However, you will have to provide information about your income and financial circumstances to qualify.

Attorney Fees

Attorneys fees make up the bulk of what you will spend on your divorce.

Divorce Papers

There is no fee for completing the divorce papers yourself. You can obtain copies of the forms from your local family court office or website.

If you have an attorney or paralegal complete them for you, there is a fee. Divorce papers must also be formally served on the other party, and in most states, you'll need to pay a process server, which can range between $20 and $100.

Other Expenses

Other expenses involved in divorce include experts, counseling, parenting classes, and custody evaluations. In addition, a court may order temporary spousal and child support soon after the case is filed.

How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost?

Lawyers bill in a variety of ways for a divorce. These include:

  • Retainer fee: An upfront payment that hours are billed against.
  • Hourly rate: The amount the attorney charges for each hour of work; paralegals are usually billed at a lower rate. This includes preparation, phone calls, email, travel time to court, and court time. Some attorneys charge more for the time spent in court. It's also important to note that hourly billing is actually broken down into six- or 15-minute increments, rounded up when time is tracked.
  • Flat fees: Some attorneys charge a set amount for divorce, but this is usually for uncontested simple divorces.

According to the Martindale-Nolo study, the average hourly rate charged by divorce attorneys is $270. However, 35% of survey respondents paid $300 an hour, and 20% faced hourly rates of $400 or more.

Half of family law attorneys offer free 30-minute consultations to help you decide if they are a good fit for you.

Cost of Divorce With a Lawyer

The cost of a contested divorce depends on how many issues are uncontested. For example, if a couple agrees on everything except spousal support, their case is still considered contested because they do not agree on every single issue.

However, a contested divorce that involves litigation over property division, custody, child support, and spousal support — especially when multiple homes, businesses, and vehicles are involved — will cost significantly more due to the increased complexity and the number of issues attorneys need to resolve.

The Martindale-Nolo study showed that people who had no contested issues and used a lawyer for their divorce spent $4,000 or less on attorney fees.

Couples with at least one contested issue who settled before trial spent an average of $10,400. Those who had at least one contested issue and went to trial spent an average of $17,700.

The average fee for full-scope representation was $11,300, with a median of $7,000. Over 40% of clients paid $5,000 or less, while approximately 28% paid between $6,000 and $10,000. Those who went to trial on at least one issue paid 70% more in attorney's fees than those who settled all disputes.

Longer divorces cost more, with fees ranging from $6,500 for cases completed in less than six months to $23,000 for those extending beyond 30 months.

Please note that these figures represent the expenses of one individual and do not account for the attorneys' fees paid by their spouses.

Cost of Divorce Without a Lawyer

The cost of a simple, amicable divorce depends in part on what resources you use.

If you go to mediation, you will have to pay mediator fees. Estimates for the average cost of divorce mediation range from $3,000 to $8,000.

If you resolve your divorce on your own and submit it to the court, you only have to pay court filing fees, which averages a few hundred dollars.

What Leads to a More Costly Divorce?

There are a variety of factors that can increase the cost of divorce, such as:

  • Appraisals. The cost will increase if real estate, businesses, collectibles, or other valuable items need to be valued in the divorce. A typical divorce appraisal can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000, depending on a number of factors.
  • Assets. The more assets involved in the divorce, the more expensive it will be.
  • Children. Whether or not you have minor children impacts the cost of your divorce because custody and child support must be decided. Couples in the study who divorced with children averaged $15,500 for their cost, while those without paid $10,100. If a custody evaluation by an expert is ordered, that will be an additional fee. Many states also require parents to take paid parenting classes to be able to finalize their divorce.
  • Counseling. This is an added cost if anyone in the family (parents or children) needs counseling or therapy.
  • Domestic violence. If domestic violence is an issue in the marriage, there may be a need for restraining or protective orders, which can increase the cost of the divorce.
  • Expert witnesses. If experts are needed to testify, additional fees, such as valuation or custody, are charged.
  • Maintenance. If spousal support or alimony is an issue in your divorce, it will likely cost almost double the cost of a divorce without this issue.
  • Discovery. If there is a need for your attorney to issue many subpoenas or hold depositions, this will affect the cost.
  • High-conflict situations. If you and your spouse are in a high-conflict relationship where you can't agree on things, agree on things and change your minds frequently, or need lawyers to negotiate absolutely everything down to how the last fork will be divided, the divorce will cost more.
  • Contact with your attorney. The more you call or email your attorney with questions or concerns, the more you will pay in attorney fees.

How to Reduce The Cost of Divorce

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to reduce the cost of divorce. These include:

  • Pro se representation. You will only pay filing fees if you and your spouse represent yourselves without attorneys.
  • Mediation. You can drastically reduce your attorney costs if you and your spouse work with a mediator to create an agreement. The average cost of divorce mediation ranges from $3,000 to $8,000.
  • Collaborative divorce. A collaborative divorce attorney agrees only to negotiate your case and not litigate it. This limited scope representation ensures you will not pay for an expensive trial.
  • Negotiate on your own. Work with your spouse to negotiate a resolution to every issue possible in your case on your own, and only hire attorneys to handle the unresolved issues.
  • Consulting attorneys. If you decide to handle your case yourself but feel you are in over your head, you can hire an attorney on an hourly basis to assist you with paperwork or to explain the law to you.
  • Online divorce. An online divorce service completes the paperwork for you and can provide access to mediators or attorneys at reasonable hourly rates if you need additional assistance. For instance, prices at start at just $599 for basic divorce services. Additionally, you can select a package that better suits your specific situation.
Learn about divorce online with

Real Stories, Real Costs

  • James Warren highlights the relatively low cost of a DIY divorce, primarily consisting of court filing fees, totaling around $300. He emphasizes the importance of checking state-specific websites for DIY divorce information, which varies in quality but generally provides necessary guidance. (source:
  • A Reddit user shares their experience of paying a $3,500 retainer. Despite the lower initial retainer, they have accumulated at least $30,000 in attorney fees over two years of divorce court proceedings. This highlights the potential for legal costs to escalate significantly over time. (source:
  • Another Reddit user shares their experience with a heavily contested divorce in Chicago, which cost about $65,000. The divorce decree, including all separate filings, amounted to approximately 130 pages. (source:
  • A DCUM Forum user shares a story of undergoing a divorce in Maryland, which cost them about $5,000 in total. They initiated the divorce process by filing with the court themselves. Their ex-spouse, opposed to the divorce, hired expensive lawyers to contest it. In response, the individual chose a reasonably priced lawyer with the directive to expedite the process. They emphasized that avoiding a prolonged legal battle was more important than fighting over specific demands. Ultimately, the divorce resulted in a roughly equal division of both children and assets between the parties. (source: DCUM)
  • Another Reddit story details an individual's divorce experience, costing about $25,000. Despite the absence of conflict or disputes over child custody, significant expenses arose from the need to split assets, including a business. The services of a CPA, included in the total cost, amounted to $10,000. (source:

Final Thoughts

The cost of divorce does not have to be overwhelming. The first step is to understand all the potential costs. Then, you and your spouse can decide what services you need to end your marriage.

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