Divorce signature, marriage dissolution document. Wedding ring and agreement on lawyer office table


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.

Getting married can feel like embarking on a thrilling — and perhaps slightly risky — roller coaster ride with your partner. You both throw caution to the wind and hope for the best because, let's face it, weddings (even micro weddings!) are ultra expensive — to the tune of around $30,000 on average. That's $30,000 spent on just one party. One. Single. Party.

Though the divorce rate in the U.S. has dwindled, well over half a million Americans still find themselves filing for divorce every year, according to Forbes. The divorce industry is worth a staggering $11 billion per year, with the median price of a divorce in the U.S. costing about $7,000 and the average ranging between $15,000 and $20,000, the outlet found. 

And while the expenses associated with a divorce will fluctuate depending on whether there are assets that require division, custody disputes, and other contentious matters, one thing is clear: It won't be cheap. We took a deep dive into the myriad factors that could contribute to the overall expense of getting divorced. 

Gallery: The Most Expensive Celebrity Divorces of All Time

What Do I Have To Pay For in a Divorce?

On top of the emotional toll a divorce can take, the financial expenses can, unfortunately, also be hefty. These can include: 

  • Legal Fees: One of the main expenses associated with divorce? Legal fees. The cost of legal representation varies based on factors such as the complexity of the case, the attorney's experience, and the location. Generally, legal fees can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands, depending on the circumstances. The average cost of a divorce in 2019 stood at $12,900; notably, legal fees accounted for the bulk of this sum, amounting to $11,300 when a "full-scope divorce lawyer" was retained. On average, you can expect to cough up anywhere from around $200 to $400 (on the higher side) per hour to pay your lawyer.  

  • Division of Assets: Another significant financial toll is the division of assets. Joint properties, bank accounts, investments, and other shared assets must be evaluated, appraised, and divided equitably. The involvement of other professionals, such as appraisers and financial advisors, can add to the overall cost. The complexity and size of the marital estate will also greatly influence the expenses associated with asset division during a divorce. 

  • Child Custody and Support: If children are involved, determining child custody and support arrangements can be another steep expense added to the divorce process. Custody battles and negotiations can lead to additional legal fees, lengthy court battles, and child support payments. The amount of child support you'll be expected to pay is typically determined based on your income and the child's needs, and can have a long-term financial impact on both parents. 

  • Alimony or Spousal Support: In cases where one spouse requires financial support after the divorce, alimony or spousal support may be awarded. The amount and duration of these payments will depend on various factors, including the length of the marriage, earning potential, and financial needs. For individuals who engaged in trial proceedings on at least one contested issue, the average total costs surged to $20,400, the Nolo survey found. And those who underwent trials involving two or more issues experienced even higher expenses, with an average cost of $23,300. (Major gasp.)

  • Mediation or Alternative Dispute Resolution: In some cases, couples may opt for mediation or alternative dispute resolution methods instead of seeking a traditional divorce process. These methods can be more cost-effective compared to battling it out in court, as they typically involve a neutral mediator to facilitate negotiations between the parties. While the fees associated with mediation or other alternative methods can vary, they are generally lower than lengthy court battles.

  • Miscellaneous Expenses: Aside from the primary financial aspects mentioned above, there can also be additional expenses to consider, which can include: filing fees, document preparation, counseling fees, and any additional professional services required during the divorce process. 
Divorce ProcessPhoto credit: simarik/istockphoto

The Bottom Line

While the financial cost of divorce can vary significantly based on individual circumstances, it's important to be prepared for the expenses and to do research to compare prices of divorce attorneys in your area. In some cases, you may be able to get a discounted (or even free) consultation with a divorce attorney or financial advisor to gain a clearer understanding of the potential expenses to help you make an informed decision

Legal fees, asset division, child custody arrangements, and spousal support are key factors that contribute to the overall cost of divorce. But if you have a fairly simple, uncontested divorce that doesn't involve children, you may even be able to forego hiring an expensive attorney and opt to represent yourself in court. In this case, you'll just have to pay for filing and court fees, including  courtroom expenses, divorce forms, and processing fees. Getting divorced without a lawyer can significantly lower your budget, with the median court cost hovering around $300, according to Forbes. 

All in all, as challenging as it can be to navigate the financial aspects of a divorce and come to terms with the end of a marriage, proper planning and communication can help mitigate the financial strain and pave the way for a smoother transition into post-divorce life.

For more great lifestyle tips and money-saving advice,please sign up for our free newsletters.

Cheapism in the News