Divorce - How Much Does a Divorce Cost in USA?

When considering divorce, the first thing one should know is that emotions, no matter how chaotic, are going to come second to the legal and financial complexities of the divorce process. The average cost of divorce in United States ranges from $15000 to $30000, depending on various factors which are particular to the case. Here are some of them which will determine how much a divorce costs in USA.

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  1. Court fees.

    Costs associated with the filing of divorce and the progress of the case in the divorce court can form a chunk of the total divorce costs. Court fees usually vary from one state to another besides depending on the length of the case. The longer a case goes on in a court, the higher will be its costs. However if a spouse can explore do-it-yourself options like filing his/her own case and doing one’s own legal paperwork, a lot of these expenses can be saved. Normally both spouses pay their own court costs. But in special cases, where for instance one of the spouses has been a stay-at-home mom while the husband is a successful professional, the court may order the latter to pay all or part of his spouse’s court fees and other legal costs.

  2. Attorney’s fees.

    Whether one can get the judge to ask the spouse to pay the legal costs of course depends on how good the divorce lawyer is. Usually the more experienced and successful a lawyer, the higher will his/her fees be. This is the reason why a lion’s share of total divorce costs usually end up as lawyer’s fees. Divorce lawyers usually charge a retainer fee and an hourly rate, with fifteen minute increments even though some may also settle for a flat fee over the entire divorce process. The hourly rate of a divorce lawyer in United States may range from $150 to $400, depending on his/her experience, the degree of complexity in the case as well as the location. Besides this, there are costs notched up by phone calls to the lawyer which can reach $1000 a month. So if a divorce happens to drag on above a year, the person might end up spending $12000 just on those daily calls. In complicated divorce cases, it may be more prudent to go for expert lawyers even though they are more expensive since they stand a better chance of bringing about a profitable divorce settlement for their clients.
  3. Nature of the divorce case.

    A major factor in determining divorce costs is the nature of the case in the divorce court. When both spouses agree on crucial aspects of the divorce like child custody, child support, division of marital home and other assets, it is known as a collaborative case. Legal expenses and court fees associated with collaborative cases are usually low since spouses already understand each other on major issues and the case can be wrapped up quickly. In fact in divorce cases, where there is a degree of understanding between the spouses, one option is to look at mediation. A mediator’s job is to guide the couple through negotiations of issues like child custody and division of marital assets. Even though a mediator’s hourly rate may not be less than that of a lawyer, since the groundwork is shared by the couple, a mediator’s billable hours and consequently, fees are less. On the other hand in adversarial cases, where one spouse contests the other on issues like alimony, share in marital assets, child custody or child support, the case usually goes on for a long time in the courts, shooting up the final divorce costs.
  4. Child custody issues.

    If both spouses are fighting over child custody and child support issues, it means more work for the lawyer and consequently higher attorney costs. Besides this, the attorney may be required to call expert witness in the court to support a parent’s claim on child custody issues which again means additional expense. Other kinds of costs may be incurred by psychiatric evaluations of the spouses and child as well as by a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem, if the judge sees fit.
  5. Extent of marital assets.

    The more the warring spouses own, the more there is to fight over. In other words, the extent of assets owned by the spouses, jointly or separately, will determine how complicated and long-drawn the divorce case is going to be. The greater the number of pension funds, properties and investments to consider, the longer it will take to reach a decision and the more expensive will the entire process become. Other than this, an attorney may appoint a Certified Divorce Finance Analyst to estimate how much a deal is worth for in future, a Real Estate Appraiser to get a valuation on a property or a pension funds expert to determine how much will a client’s fund be worth to the spouse. The more professionals an attorney hires, the greater the divorce expenses are likely to become.
  6. The legal strategy.

    If the attorney hired by a spouse adopts an aggressive or confrontational strategy on the divorce case, it is likely to get more complicated and go on longer in the court, all of which are going to make it more expensive. Remember that clients are always within their rights to change a lawyer if they find that they are being forced to pay up for his/her attitude rather than for someone who is going to look out for their rights in a more reasonable manner.

An anecdote about a person considering divorce has him asking a lawyer how much the entire process is going to cost. The lawyer replies back by asking the client how much he can afford. Finally, it is up to the concerned couple on how they choose to go about the divorce process. They could either agree on major issues and reach a settlement out of court, thus significantly lowering their divorce costs. Or they could continue to squabble in court and help their attorneys make a neat profit.