Overview: Average Divorce Costs in  2017 | How Much Is a Divorce?


Nobody steps up to the wedding altar thinking it will all end in a massive divorce. You are too busy thinking about the cost of the venue, dress, and cake — not to mention the hope of happily ever — after to consider any cost of a divorce in your future.

Yet the CDC shows that over 800,000 divorces take place annually in the United States. This means hundreds of thousands of people are wondering, “How much does it cost to get a divorce?”

It is an important question to ask. The truth is, the cost of a divorce is not cheap. This helpful guide will take you step-by-step through the process of understanding the average cost of divorce.



How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce?

The more complicated the split, the higher the divorce costs. Short answer: average divorce costs are at least in the hundreds, often into the thousands, and rarely into the millions.

Rupert Murdoch goes down in history as having the most expensive divorce at a reported $1.7 billion. While most people will never come close to astronomical divorce costs like that, there is no doubt: divorce is a financial burden.

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Image Source: Average Divorce Costs

To fully estimate your final cost of a divorce, we will take you through all the potential costs and fees you may encounter, including the following:

  • Divorce attorneys
  • Documents and paperwork
  • Filing fees
  • Miscellaneous fees

Then we will tackle the two main types of divorce and their average divorce costs. This way you can confidently answer, “How much is a divorce going to cost me?”

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Average Divorce Costs Chart

Divorce Services

Average Divorce Costs

Divorce Attorney’s Fees

$12,800

Divorce Document Costs

Free – $50

Divorce Filing Fees

$200 – $500

Divorce Petition Delivery Cost

Free – $100

Divorce Notary Fees

$2 – $10

Divorce Real Estate Appraisal Cost

$300 – $400

Divorce Parenting Course Fees

$25 – $250

Table: Average Cost of Divorce Services



The Average Cost of Divorce Lawyers

Undoubtedly, the main source of high divorce costs comes from hiring a divorce lawyer. If you are lucky, you can find some legal representation for as low as $75 an hour. Some divorce attorneys cost a great deal, sometimes upward of $1,500 an hour. On average, it is safe to assume that you will pay around $250 an hour.

Of course, the average cost of a divorce lawyer will depend on where you live in the country and how complex your case is. Nolo reports, however, that the average divorce costs include $12,800 in attorney fees.

Since you will be paying so much, make sure to ask your attorney important questions before you even begin, such as:

  • How long will this process take in hours?
  • How much does it cost to file for divorce when we use your services?
  • What should I expect along the way?

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Will Divorce Lawyers Take a Flat Fee?

With the average cost of divorce attorneys being so high, one way people try to limit divorce costs is to find a legal representative who will take a flat fee. Woman’sDivorce.com suggests finding someone who will charge approximately $1,000 per issue (example: child custody or property division..

It is imperative to only use this option if you have an uncomplicated divorce ahead of you. Flat fee lawyers want to keep limited hours to still make money. If your divorce proceedings become complicated, you will want an attorney who will fight for you until the end.

Remember, this current cost of a divorce could save you money in the long run.

How Much Does Divorce Cost? Bottom Line for Attorneys: Expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars an hour. Only choose a flat fee option with simple divorce proceedings.



How Much Is a Divorce? Documents and Paperwork

When it comes to asking, “how much does it cost to get divorced?” there are not many times when you get good financial news. But in the realm of divorce documents, you are in for a breath of fresh air.

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Image Source: How Much Is a Divorce

If you are managing the divorce on your own, you will need to track down documents. Fortunately, most court websites for your state will offer divorce documents for free. You simply need to print them out from their website. They even include instruction sheets.

In some cases, you can also choose a divorce kit. The average cost of divorce kits is typically around $50.

How Much Does Divorce Cost? Bottom-line for documents: Free, unless you prefer the ease of a divorce kit.



Court: How Much Does It Cost to File for Divorce?

The process of actually filing the divorce documents in court is one of the most common divorce costs. If you hired an attorney, dealing with the filing should not be an issue for you. However, if you are filing uncontested without legal representation, you will have to deal with and pay for filing fees.

The average cost of divorce filings depends upon your state, and the fees can change per year. Typically, these costs are in the hundreds. Here are a few examples of filing divorce costs:

  • Florida’s filing fee is currently $421
  • Idaho’s filing fee is currently $207
  • Nevada’s filing fee is currently $299
  • New York’s filing fee is currently $335
  • Washington’s filing fee is currently $280

How Much Does Divorce Cost? Bottom Line for Filing: Expect to pay at least $200, but no more than $500 for filing.

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Miscellaneous Divorce Costs

Outside of the lawyer’s fees and filing fees, what brings the average divorce costs up are the small, miscellaneous fees that quickly add up. Here is a non-exhaustive, but common list of divorce costs you might consider budgeting for:

  • Petition Delivery: Anyone over the age of 18 (other than yourself) can serve your spouse divorce papers. This free method can keep the cost of a divorce down. Of course, you can also pay for certified mail with receipt of delivery. This option will cost you a little over $4.00 through the U.S. Postal Service. You can also hire somebody to deliver the petition for under $100.
  • Notary: While some banks will notarize your divorce documents for free, some locations will charge you a small fee. Each state has its own laws on the maximum amount a notary can charge. The average cost of a divorce notary should not be more than a few dollars per signature.
  • Real Estate Appraisal: Before any property is split between the divorcing parties, a non-biased professional appraiser will have to determine the worth of the real estate. Add about $300 to $400 to your divorce costs for this step.
  • Parenting Courses for Custody: Sometimes the court will demand that the parents take parenting courses to help lessen the emotional trauma on their children. This cost of a divorce is often less than $50, but depending on your state, it may range between $25 and $250

How Much Does Divorce Cost? Bottom Line for Miscellaneous Fees: Give yourself at the very least a few hundred dollars, if not a couple thousand dollars, for wiggle room.



Average Divorce Costs Chart

Type of Divorce Costs

Average Divorce Costs

Attorney’s Fees

$12,800

Document Costs

Free – $50

Filing Fees

$200 – $500

Petition Delivery

Free – $100

Notary Fees

$2 – $10

Real Estate Appraisal

$300 – $400

Parenting Courses

$50

Table: Average Cost for Different Types of Divorce


Types of Divorce

Now that we have a basic understanding of the divorce costs you could potentially encounter when dissolving a marriage, it is vitally important to see how they play out in the two types of divorces: uncontested and contested.

Answering, “How much does a divorce cost?” is only truly possible when you break down these two very different experiences.

Uncontested Divorce: The Lowest Divorce Costs

If you and your spouse are worried about the cost of divorce, your best bet is to try everything in your power to have an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are when both parties can agree to all the terms of divorce.

This is a no muss, no fuss end to a marriage, so the average cost of divorce stays low. In fact, you will not typically have to use a divorce lawyer at all, the fee that brings the average cost of divorce so high.

You should expect to pay these divorce costs when entering into an uncontested divorce:

  • Divorce documents
  • Filing fees
  • Document costs
  • Attorney fees (Only if you choose to use one; flat fee attorneys are also an option here)
  • Notary fee

Contested Divorce: Higher Divorce Costs

A contested divorce is any divorce in which both parties cannot come to an agreement without legal help. These cases take much longer, the cost of a divorce is much higher, and they often involve one or more of the following issues:

  • Children and custody issues
  • Alimony and/or child support
  • Large sums of money
  • Multiple financial assets or properties
  • Retirement account division

If you are entering a contested divorce settlement, you will typically only being paying one lump sum to your attorney. In most cases, the high attorney fees will absorb any other cost of a divorce like filing or notary.

But you should still prepare for possible miscellaneous fees like appraisals and parenting courses.

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How Much Does Divorce Cost? Looking at the Numbers

Many sources have performed surveys and run analyses to take a peek at what people are paying for their divorces.

Nolo: Nolo currently says that their consumers are paying around $15,500 for their divorces. But if that divorce ends up with a trial for an issue, those average divorce costs go up to $19,600.

Huffington Post: In 2013, The Huffington Post broke down the average cost of divorce and concluded that you should expect it to be between $15,000 and $20,000.

Woman’s Divorce: This online resource believes the average cost of divorce to be over $15,000 for a contested divorce.

Divorce Support with About.com: Similarly, this online resource also holds the average divorce costs to be at $15,000.


The Cost of Divorce Bottom Line

Taking all of the fees into consideration, it is safe to assume that the projected averages above are a solid guideline for what to expect when budgeting for divorce costs.

Type of Divorce

Average Divorce Costs

Uncontested Divorce

< $500

Contested Divorce

$15,000 to $25,000

Table: Uncontested vs Contested Divorce

Of course, choosing an uncontested divorce will save you substantial amounts of money. This brings the overall averages down. On the other hand, there are still those with divorce costs in the millions that bring the average divorce costs up.

The best way to determine your personal situation is with a consultation with one (or perhaps multiple) divorce attorneys in your area.


Can I Afford Divorce Costs?

Answering, “How much does it cost to get divorced?” does not always answer the question “Can we afford to get divorced?” with the average cost of divorce being so high. When money is an issue, figuring out how to divorce without going bankrupt is a real problem for thousands of people each year.

Choosing an uncontested method, if it is possible, and deciding on all the divorce agreement issues together, will save both parties thousands of dollars in divorce costs.

Of course, sometimes it is not only necessary, but also important to contest a divorce and get legal representation involved. In this case, the best way to keep costs low is to decide on each issue as quickly as possible to limit attorney hours. This will keep the average cost of a divorce as low as possible.

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