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  • Writer's pictureSeth Eric Springer, Esq.

How Much Does a Simple Divorce Cost?

In the United States, the number of marriages that end in a divorce or separation is close to a whopping 50%. That’s millions of people going through one of the most difficult processes imaginable. And considering that the median salary for a York divorce lawyer is around $122,000, one can even claim that spouse separation is a multi-million dollar industry.

But what does an average divorce even cost in the US? Will the expenses differ based on hiring legal experts? In this article, we will go over the answers to these questions and more.

What Factors Into the Divorce Costs?

What Factors Into the Divorce Costs?

Generally, there are 5 stages of divorce but not every divorce case is the same. Sometimes, the two partners agree on most, if not all, of the points of separation. However, most often there will be at least a point or two of contention. As such, the cost of the process will vary greatly. And spousal agreement, or lack thereof, is merely one of many different factors that determine the expenses of a divorce.

Broadly speaking, some of the most common price-changing factors for divorce include:

● Type of divorce (is it contested or uncontested?)

● The location where the spouse(s) filed for divorce, including the local legal fees

● Hourly rates or retainer fees of attorneys

● Child custody (and child custody evaluation)

● Mediation

● Alimony

Taking everything into consideration, the most inexpensive option is filing for an uncontested result and doing all of the necessary paperwork by oneself. Of course, uncontested divorces require both spouses to agree on every single term. However, the majority of divorces end up being contested, and both parties hire legal experts and take the process to court.

The Cost of Divorce With an Attorney

Depending on the state, a divorce attorney will charge different rates. Normally, they charge by the hour, with the cost ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $500. But that’s not the extent of attorney costs. Lawyers will typically charge every phone call, every email, all of the text messages, court preparation, depositions, discovery, paper preparation and review, and research. For instance, a single 15-minute phone call with an attorney will cost an individual half of a billable hour, and a 30-minute phone call a full billable hour.

Getting into specifics, an uncontested divorce can cost roughly $1,000, with lawyers in wealthier states like California and New York charging as much as $5,000. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is a much more complex affair. For instance, if a couple owns a business together or co-owns specific assets or property, the attorney can charge additional fees for research and assessment.

The costs go up even more if the couple has children. In order to determine custody of the child in a contested divorce, the court will appoint a trained professional psychologist. Their job is to evaluate which parent is the best fit for custody by observing them and by talking it over with both spouses, as well as the children.

County-employed evaluators tend to charge anywhere between $1,000 and $2,500 per case. On the other hand, private evaluators can charge at least $10,000.

In order to cut down on costs, couples tend to do one of two things:

● Hire a single mediator for both spouses (a mediator charges, on average, between $100 and $300 per hour)

● Hire attorneys only for specific elements of the divorce (the so-called Limited Scope Representation)

The Cost of Divorce Without an Attorney

Opting for a so-called DIY divorce is quite cost-effective, but it’s not an optimal solution for all married couples. In other words, if the partners happen to co-own a business, property, and assets, or if they have children or pets, then legal representation is a must.

However, if the marriage was brief, if the couple doesn’t co-own much (or anything), and if there are no issues of custody or alimony to cover, an uncontested DIY divorce is the least expensive option. But it’s still not cheap.

Generally speaking, the cheapest part of any divorce is the filing fee. Those can range between $70 and $435 depending on the state the couple files the divorce in. Next, at least one of the partners will have to file a legal petition for marriage dissolution with the local county court or a clerk. Once again, they will charge a fee for this filing. The average rate of these fees is $300 (in wealthy states like California, it can be $500 or more).

Finally, there’s the cost of serving the papers to the spouse, and the process will differ depending on who serves the papers. For instance, a partner can submit the petition alongside a summons to the local sheriff’s department. The local law enforcement then serves the papers to the other spouse.

Alternatively, the partner can hire a private process server who will deliver the petition. They charge an average of $50 per one serving of papers, though the rates will vary depending on the process server or the state where the divorce is being filed.

Bottom line is, divorce is a costly process. Some methods can help ease the process such as filing for the divorce first.

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