How Much Does a Divorce Cost?

By Joe Dillon, Divorce Mediator

Founder & Divorce Negotiation Expert

Equitable Mediation Verified

Original Publish Date: June 25, 2014

Last updated: June 12, 2024

  • There are five main factors that impact how much a divorce will cost.
  • Oftentimes, what initially might appear to be the lowest priced way to divorce can wind up costing you a lot more in the end.
  • Learn more about 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 is divorce 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.


5 Main Factors That Contribute to Divorce Costs

There are five main factors that impact the cost of getting a divorce for couples. They are:

  1. The complexities of your case;
  2. The level of conflict between you and your soon-to-be ex;
  3. The divorce option and/or divorce professional you choose;
  4. Costs necessitated by the state you live in, and/or the terms of your negotiated divorce agreement;
  5. Court fee / divorce paperwork

When asking, "How much does it cost for a divorce?" 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 divorce cost, 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 a Divorce Cost? It Depends on The Complexities of Your Case:

One thing that can determine divorce cost is the complexity of your situation. Generally speaking, the more complex a case is, the more divorce will cost.

There are many factors that can add to the complexity of your divorce case. Here are just a few:

  • The duration of your marriage: Are you divorcing after a short-term marriage of 5 years or less? Or are you divorcing after 20 years or more?
  • Do you and your husband or wife have children together in the marriage? And are those children minors?
  • Do you and your spouse have jointly owned assets and/or debts?
  • Are there significant differences in your incomes?
  • Do one or both of you have variability in your income?
  • Are either/both of you self-employed or divorcing with a business involved?
  • Are one or both of you unemployed?
  • Is there domestic violence, substance abuse or incarceration?



2. How Much Does it Cost to Get a Divorce? It Depends on The Level of Conflict between You and Your Soon-to-be Ex:

Another thing that can determine how much for a divorce is the level of conflict between the parties.

Typically, the higher the level of conflict that exists between the spouses, the longer it can take to reach agreement on the required divorce issues (parenting plan and time sharing, child support, alimony, division of assets and liabilities,) and the higher the cost of divorce will be.


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 wife or husband will dig their heels in and refuse to try to find common ground?



3. How Much is a Divorce? It Depends on The Divorce Option and/or Divorce Professional You Choose

The third factor that will contribute to the overall cost to divorce is the method and/or divorce professional you choose.

There are five options for how to get a divorce and each varies in terms of fees and costs.

For example, a do-it-yourself or DIY online divorce service can range from $300 to $1,800 per couple (not including court costs) while the cost of a divorce using mediation can range from $6,000 to $10,000 per couple.

Legal fees for a lawyer led collaborative divorce can range from $25,000 to $50,000 while legal fees for a litigated divorce using divorce lawyers can range from $20,000 to $200,000.

According to FindLaw, divorce costs vary by state. Martindale-Nolo Research also confirms the cost of divorce by state varies.

But there’s a lot more to each divorce option than just cost.

You also need to think about other issues because not all methods will get you the result you want and some of the options may not be viable for your situation.

For example:

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 / spousal 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 (and at an additional expense)?


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 both 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 child custody agreement may be sufficient.


How much control do you want over your divorce settlement agreement?

Some people prefer to have complete control over the terms of their agreement while others would prefer that a divorce attorney take the lead or 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?

Is this a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce?

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 family law 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?



4. There are Also Costs Necessitated by The State You Live In, and/or The Terms of Your Negotiated Agreement

In addition to the three factors listed above, there are other types of costs associated with getting a divorce which are dependent on where you live, as well as the terms of your settlement agreement.

For example, if you are divorcing and have minor children, (depending on the state you live in), you and your spouse may be required to participate in a court-ordered "parenting education program."

This can cost between $50 and $100 per parent.

Another potential cost of divorce is related to the distribution of your marital assets and liabilities.

Let's say during your divorce negotiations, you and your soon-to-be-ex decided to share in your 401(k) retirement plan. In order to do so without any unintended tax consequences, you will need to have a special document drafted called a QDRO.

The cost of a QDRO can range from $300 to $1,500, depending on who is doing the drafting.

Or, if you and your spouse own a home, and agreed that ownership would be transferred to one of you, there will be additional costs to do so such as the drafting of a Quitclaim or Interspousal Transfer Deed and if necessary, the refinancing of the mortgage exclusively into one party's name.



5. Court Filing Fee

And finally is a cost you will incur no matter which divorce method you use. And that's court fees.

Divorce filing fees vary from state-to-state (and sometimes even county-to-county), and can sometimes be different for cases with minor children, versus for cases without.

Typically, a filing fee is a few hundred dollars per couple.



How Much Do Divorces Cost? It Depends...

The answer to the question, "How much does divorce cost?" can range from a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars!

It all depends on the complexities of your situation, the level of conflict that exists between you and your spouse, the way you choose to go about your divorce proceedings, the terms of your negotiated agreement and the state you live in.

After reading this post you may be tempted to choose a diy divorce or the divorce attorney or law firm with the lowest retainer fee or the mediator with the lowest fixed fee.

But you also need to determine if that's going to get you the result you want and if your divorce will be handled properly.

Because if not, you'll spend a lot more money in the end!

And 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.



Early in the process? The choices you make before you start a divorce are critical.


Regardless of how many years you've been married, whether you're the one who wants the divorce, your spouse does or you're both on the same page, the choices you make before you start a divorce will very likely set the tone for how the process will unfold for you and your children.

And how peaceful, child-focused, fair, and cost-effective your divorce will (or won't) be.

But you can only make good choices if you take the time to get educated and prepare for divorce first.

Learn How



Other Useful Resources:

Joe Dillon, Divorce Mediator

Written by Joe Dillon, Divorce Mediator

Joe Dillon is a divorce mediator and founder of Equitable Mediation. He holds a master’s degree in finance, and has completed formal training in negotiation and mediation from Harvard University, MIT, Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois campus), the NJ Association of Professional Mediators, the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators and the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis. As a child, Joe witnessed first-hand the damage of attorney-driven litigation during his parents' divorce. And in 2008, he set out to offer divorcing couples a more peaceful and dignified alternative. Throughout his professional career, Joe has helped over a thousand couples reach a fair and equitable divorce agreement - out of court.