The last thing on a newly married couple’s mind is divorce.
Considering that the average divorce rate per 1,000 people is 3.2 and the average marriage rate per 1,000 people is 6.9, the divorce rate is still high in America.
That said, when looking at the overall picture based on data from 2000 to 2014, the rates of both marriage and divorce are decreasing.
It makes sense that divorce is declining if marriage is declining since one can only divorce if one has a spouse.
However, the fact that fewer people are getting married is interesting.
That said, because the divorce rate is so high, one might wonder what the average costs of divorce are.
Here’s what you need to know about the costs of a divorce.
How Much Does A Divorce Cost?
The average cost of divorce is $12,900 according to a study performed by the website Nolo.com.
The bulk of those expenses stems from attorney rates and filing fees.
The average cost of an attorney is $270 per hour.
The study also discovered that certain issues, like alimony and child custody, significantly increase the cost of divorce.
Without any children or contested issues, the cost of divorce was as cheap as $4,100.
However, with two issues or more that go to trial, the cost of divorce rose to $23,300.
What Factors Contribute To The Cost Of Divorce?
Divorce is expensive, a few factors can make it even more expensive.
Here are some of the factors that are contributing to the high cost of divorce.
Perhaps one of the surprising factors that increase the cost of divorce is your location.
Some states have higher legal fees associated with divorce than others.
Everyone needs to pay filing fees and other associated fees to process their paperwork.
Some states may have higher rates as a way to make getting a divorce more difficult.
They might want couples to try therapy first in an attempt to repair the relationship.
Other states have relatively cheap fees.
They might have a concern over the safety of those involved in the marriage and want to make it easier to escape spousal abuse.
Here’s a list of the states and their average filing fee costs.
- Alabama: $400 plus $50 administrative fee
- Alaska: $250 + $75 for any modifications
- Arizona: $280
- Arkansas: $165
- California: $435
- Colorado: $230
- Connecticut: $360
- Delaware: $165
- District of Columbia: $80
- Florida: $408 in Hillsborough County, varies by county
- Georgia: $400
- Hawaii: $215 plus $50 parent education surcharge for minor children
- Idaho: $154 without minor children and $207 with minor children
- Illinois: $334 in Lake County, varies by county
- Indiana: $157
- Iowa: $265
- Kansas: $400
- Kentucky: $148 without attorney and $153 with attorney
- Louisiana: $355 in Ascension Parish County, varies by county
- Maine: $120
- Maryland: $165
- Massachusetts: $215
- Michigan: $150
- Minnesota: $365
- Mississippi: $400 plus $50 admin fee
- Missouri: $133.50 without minor children and $233.50 with minor children, varies by county
- Montana: $170
- Nebraska: $158
- Nevada: $299
- New Hampshire: $400 plus $50 admin fee
- New Jersey: $300
- New Mexico: $137
- New York: $335
- North Carolina: $75
- North Dakota: $80
- Ohio: $350 in Washington County, varies by county
- Oklahoma: $183
- Oregon: $301
- Pennsylvania: $201.75 plus extra for modifications
- Puerto Rico: $400
- Rhode Island: $400
- South Carolina: $150
- South Dakota: $95
- Tennessee: $184.50 without minor children and $259.50 with minor children
- Texas: $310 with minor children and $283 without children minor, varies by county
- Utah: $325
- Vermont: $90 for state residents
- Virginia: Varies by county
- Washington: $314
- West Virginia: $200
- Wisconsin: $184.50 with no support requests
- Wyoming: $120 in Big Horn County, varies by county
The state with the highest fees is California at $430.
The state with the lowest fees is North Carolina at $75.
There are a few reasons states might differ from one another according to their average filing fees.
One reason might be the average rate of divorce in each state.
For example, if the state experiences a high divorce rate, then that means they have a lot of paperwork to go through.
Since they only have so many workers to process the paperwork, it creates a bottleneck.
To help limit the paperwork, the state puts a higher filing rate to encourage couples to work their issues out before filing for a divorce.
This then slows down the divorce rate which allows the state to process the paperwork more easily.
Other states may have a limited number of courts in which to hear the divorce proceedings.
As a result, they have higher filing fees to dissuade married couples from divorcing to help free up the court’s time.
Some states may be trying to protect the sanctity of marriage by placing a high rate for its filing fees.
The presence of children or other issues can also make the rate increase since it means they have more paperwork to go through and file.
The population of the state may also play a role.
North Dakota, for example, has a smaller population than California.
As a result, their courts may not be as busy handling divorce proceedings.
That allows them to set a lower rate for their filing fees to encourage unhappily married couples to divorce.
Depending on where you live, you could face substantial charges to file for divorce.
The presence of children in the marriage can also make it more expensive.
The average cost of divorce with child disputes is $15,500.
The more children involved, the higher the cost.
It also depends on whether the child is a minor or not.
Older children are less expensive since they’re able to make their own legal decisions.
Minor children are not, and the court decides their future for them.
The presence of children in divorce disputes raises the cost of divorce because it extends the time in which the divorce proceedings occur.
For example, the court needs to hear from both sides why they should have sole custody of the child or joint custody.
It can take time for the attorney and the person they’re representing to organize their evidence and gather their witnesses.
The longer it takes the court to decide, the higher the cost.
They’ll need to pay their attorney their hourly rate for every moment in the trial as well as time spent on work done outside of the courtroom.
Those who charge their clients based on a retainer will also be expensive since the clients need to pay for their services longer.
Couples filing for divorce with children also tend to face higher processing fees with their state.
Then there are the other costs that aren’t directly related to divorce to consider, too.
If the child doesn’t attend court with them, then they may need to hire a babysitter or send their child to daycare while they’re in court.
If the parent has concerns over the safety of their child with their spouse, then they may need to take on the extra cost of transporting their child to a distant relative.
Having children, particularly minors, involved in a divorce makes the issue more complex.
Because it’s more complex, the cost of divorce increases.
The amount of time it takes for the divorce to be finalized can also determine how expensive it is.
A relatively simple divorce proceeding can take a year to finalize.
That’s usually because there’s a lot of back-and-forth between the couple.
Paperwork takes up a lot of time.
Negotiation over alimony, child custody, and other issues can take several days of deliberation.
If the couple is unable to negotiate between themselves, then they’ll need to go to trial.
This is usually when the couple has contested issues like child custody and other related issues.
Court, itself, takes time.
It isn’t always available at the drop of a hat.
There are several other issues that the court needs to hear and decide on besides an individual’s divorce.
The availability of the courtroom and the judge thus adds to how long it takes for the trial to occur.
Time for both attorneys to gather evidence and witnesses also contributes to the time.
Finally, for clerks to process the paperwork and finalize can easily take several months.
That’s because they have to fit it in with all their other legal paperwork.
While a relatively simple divorce takes around a year to finalize, a more complicated divorce can take around 18 months to finalize.
Some even extend to two years or more.
The longer it takes, the pricier it becomes since you need to continue to pay court fees and your attorney’s wages.
Divorce costs increase the longer your divorce takes to finalize.
4. Attorney Fees
One of the areas where some couples try to save money is their legal representation.
Some choose to forgo having an attorney because they’re expensive.
The problem with that is if the other spouse does use an attorney.
If you want to get the best outcome out of divorce proceedings, then it isn’t a good idea to go up against an attorney on your own.
They have experience in divorce and a degree in law.
They know what loopholes to use to get their client the best deal.
If you don’t want to lose custody of your child or find yourself having to split up your estate by a significant amount, then it’s usually worth it to hire a lawyer.
The problem with an attorney, of course, is that they’re expensive.
The average hourly rate for an attorney is $270.
Legal fees alone cost on average $11,300.
Even though the average is $270, you may find yourself with a lawyer who offers cheaper rates or more expensive ones.
For example, according to the Nolo study, 35% of clients paid their attorneys an hourly rate of $300 or more.
Around 20% paid their attorney $400 or more an hour.
The experience level and celebrity of the lawyer likely play a role.
If the attorney is the state’s best at divorce, for example, then you can expect them to have a high hourly rate.
Newer lawyers who are still building a reputation, on the other hand, may charge a cheaper rate.
Some attorneys don’t charge hourly either.
A few may charge you retainer fees instead.
This means that you pay a certain amount of money every week or month for as long as the divorce proceedings are active.
The payoff is that you can contact them at any moment.
They don’t restrict you to office hours.
That’s because you’re essentially retaining them for your purposes.
They take on a smaller number of cases to give you their full focus.
This is different from an hourly attorney who might be juggling several cases at once.
You can also find attorneys that charge a flat fee.
These are usually the cheapest attorneys since you don’t have to worry about the divorce proceeding taking an extended time to finish.
Another method to help save money on attorney fees is by hiring a divorce mediator instead.
Instead of paying around $12,000 for an attorney, you could hire a divorce mediator.
The average cost of using a divorce mediator is $970 for the entire proceeding.
The type of lawyer that you hire and their rate can increase the cost of divorce by a significant amount.
5. Alimony Issues
A final factor that contributes to the cost of divorce is whether a couple is fighting about alimony or not.
Alimony is a set amount of money that one spouse pays to another.
It’s usually for a set amount of time, but it can last for a lifetime under certain circumstances.
Alimony was originally created as a way to help women find their footing after a divorce.
In traditional heterosexual marriages, the man was the customary breadwinner for the family.
It meant the woman in the family was able to focus on motherhood or other household errands.
In the event of a divorce, the woman was at a disadvantage since she was out of the job market for a time.
Not only did that make it harder for her to gain employment, but it also meant she didn’t have a way to make money right from the start.
It also affected her life savings and retirement funds since she was likely part of her husband’s retirement plan.
Alimony is a way to help bolster the dependent spouse’s finances and keep them financially sound while they adjust to their new life.
The problem with alimony is that it’s often fought in court.
The bad blood between the couple makes it difficult for one party to want to send money to another.
In cases where one individual makes a substantial amount of money, it also becomes more complex to determine how much the other spouse should receive since they’re used to a certain lifestyle.
Divorce costs without alimony issues tend to be around $7,800.
Divorce costs with alimony issues tend to be around $15,900.
That’s because fighting and debating alimony can take a considerable amount of time.
It’s also complex which means couples tend to hire more expensive lawyers to receive the best representation possible.
If the divorce includes alimony, then you can expect the cost of it to be high.
Divorce is costly both monetarily and emotionally.
Certain issues like alimony and child custody can make the case more complex which also increases the cost.
The location of the divorce can also increase filing fees which makes it even more expensive.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can decrease the cost of divorce like using a divorce mediator and waiting until your children are no longer minors.