There are three main factors that impact the cost of getting a divorce for couples: Case complexities, level of conflict between the parties and the divorce method/professional chosen.
The cheapest option might not be best for your situation and can wind up being a lot more expensive in the end.
Learn more about each factor and how it affects the cost of divorce.
Paying a lot of money for a divorce is the last thing anyone wants to do.
And with good reason. Divorce can get expensive.
It can bankrupt families. Ruin lives. And steal your children's futures. So it's normal to wonder how much does a divorce cost and what are your options for getting one before you file any divorce papers.
Before taking a closer look, you'll first need to understand the things that impact divorce cost. As they can vary greatly from case-to-case.
Not only that, but there’s so much more to divorce and ending a marriage than just how much it will cost you.
And while it might be tempting to choose the lowest cost option, be cautious because the cheapest option might not be best for your situation and can wind up being a lot more expensive in the end.
3 Main Factors that Contribute to How Much Divorce Costs
There are three main factors that impact the cost of getting a divorce for couples. They are:
The complexities of your case;
The level of conflict between you and your spouse;
The divorce method and/or divorce professional you choose (divorce lawyer or divorce mediator)
When asking, "How much does a divorce cost?" it’s important that you recognize that divorces are like snowflakes and no two are exactly alike.
The divorce process is complicated and there are many issues that will affect not only the average cost of divorce, but also how long the process will take and how stressful the case will ultimately be on the divorcing couple and their child or children.
1. How Much Does Divorce Cost? It Depends on The Complexities of Your Case:
One thing that can determine how much your divorce will cost is the complexity of your situation. There are many factors that can add to the complexity of your divorce case. Here are just a few:
How long your marriage lasted;
Whether or not you and your husband or wife have children together in the marriage;
Whether or not you and your spouse have jointly owned assets and/or debts;
Whether or not there are significant differences in your incomes;
Whether or not one party or both have variability in their income;
Whether or not you or your spouse owns a business or is self-employed;
Whether or not one party or both re unemployed;
Whether or not there is domestic violence, substance abuse or incarceration.
2. How Much Does a Divorce Cost? It Depends on The Level of Conflict between You and Your Spouse:
Another thing that can determine how much for a divorce is the level of conflict between the parties (you and your spouse).
What, if any, level of trust exists between the two of you?
Are you both willing to be open and honest during your negotiations? Or do you feel there may be assets or issues in your case that your spouse will knowingly conceal from you?
To what degree are you and your spouse prepared to work together?
Are you willing to collaborate with each other even though it might be difficult at times? Or have communications broken down so severely that you believe it will be impossible to cooperate?
To what degree are you and your spouse willing to compromise?
Are you willing to negotiate? Or do you think your spouse will dig their heels in and refuse to try to find common ground?
3. How Much Does it Cost to Get a Divorce? It Depends on The Divorce Method and/or Divorce Professional You Choose
The third factor that will contribute to the overall cost to divorce is the divorce method and/or divorce professional you choose.
There are five different ways to get a divorce and each varies in terms of fees and costs.
For example, a do-it-yourself or DIY divorce can range from $300 to $1,800 per couple while divorce using mediation can range from $7,000 to $10,000.
But there’s a lot more to each divorce method than just cost. You also need to think about other issues because not all divorce methods will get you the result you want.
These issues include:
How comfortable are you with ambiguity in your final agreement?
Do you want a thorough agreement that clearly spells out in great detail everything you agreed upon with respect to child support, child custody and parenting time, dividing marital property and debts, alimony (spousal support / maintenance), etc. to ensure to the best of your ability that you won't need to return to court in the future?
Or are you comfortable with a basic agreement that may leave some items open to interpretation and possibly making a return to court in the future necessary?
To what level do you want/need an agreement that is customized to your unique situation or the unique needs of your children?
For example, if you or your spouse lives or works in a different state or one of you travels frequently for your job, a basic parenting plan just won’t do. Instead, you’ll need a flexible and customized parenting arrangement that meets your unique needs and minimizes disruption to the kids’ routines.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse intend to live down the street from each other, don’t travel for work and will share in the care of your children equally, a basic agreement may be sufficient.
How much control do you want over your divorce settlement?
Some people prefer to have complete control over the terms of their agreement while others would prefer that a judge dictate the terms of their settlement in court.
To what level do you need to spell out your co-parenting arrangement?
Remember, once your divorced you’ll no longer be husband and wife, but you’ll still be Mom and Dad. You’ll need to interact with each other as co-parents for many years to come as you remain active in your children’s lives.
How much emotional capital are you willing to invest to get through the actual divorce process?
Some people are more willing or able to power through it on their own while others may prefer to have help or support from outside professionals.
What level of confrontation are you willing to withstand?
Are you looking for a way to get divorced as peacefully as possible?
Or are you prepared to engage in a confrontational, all-out war if necessary to fight for what you believe you are entitled to (and for a judge to decide)?
How quickly do you want the divorce process to be completed?
Is it more important for you to get through the process as quickly as possible or are you willing to add a bit of extra time to the process if it means a more thorough or higher quality agreement in your case?
What level and type of professional assistance you desire?
Do you want a divorce expert to help you identify and resolve the issues and guide you and/or your spouse through the various steps?
Or do you prefer to take on the divorce process on your own with no outside involvement?
Are you seeking legal advice from a divorce attorney? Or would you prefer to make your own informed decisions using divorce mediation?
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when deciding which divorce method to use. It’s important to keep these things in mind because they will help you identify the divorce option that will best meet your needs.
How Much Does a Divorce Cost? It Depends...
So as you can see, the answer to the question, "How much does divorce cost?" can range from $300 to $200,000!
It all depends on the complexities of your situation, the level of conflict that exists between you and your spouse and the way you choose to go about your divorce proceedings.
After reading this post you may be tempted to choose the attorney or law firm with the lowest retainer fee or mediator with the lowest fixed fee. But you also need to determine if that person is going to get you the result you want.
Remember: there’s a lot more to each of the five divorce options than just cost. So do your homework before you file divorce papers so you can choose the one that's most appropriate for you.
Joe Dillon, MBA is a professional divorce mediator and founder of Equitable Mediation Services. Joe is passionate about helping couples avoid the destruction of attorney-driven litigation and specializes in helping couples resolve the issues required for divorce -peacefully, fairly and cost-effectively. When he’s not mediating, you can find him exercising, cooking, and watching Cubs baseball.