This is one of the most common questions we here. Often people are frustrated when we answer, “That depends”, but it does. Unfortunately, divorce can be a complex issue with a plethora of factors that will drastically affect the cost—making it difficult to estimate the final expense.
If you have Googled “cost of divorce”, you have no doubt come across a multitude of offers like “Online Divorce $199” or “Low cost, fast divorce $250”. These ads can set the stage for sticker shock during your first meeting with an attorney.
The average cost of a divorce in the United States is frequently cited somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000. This ballpark range is strictly an estimate; significant assets, children and how contested the divorce is will all add to the expense. In complex divorces that are highly contentious, it is possible for the cost of divorce to exceed $100,000.
While those numbers can be intimidating, you do have some control over how much a divorce will cost. The more issues that you are able to reach an agreement with your spouse, the less expensive the divorce will be. Negotiating an agreement often requires the suspension of emotions and relying on a logical approach for dividing assets, debts and parenting time.
All too often, we see parties blinded by emotions spend thousands of dollars to “win” a piece of property that could have been replaced for a couple of hundred bucks. An example of this would be a couple spending thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees and court costs to be awarded a television that would cost $400 to buy new.
There are some costs that are incurred in almost every divorce and others that are required only under special circumstances. Here is a breakdown of some items common to divorce proceedings and a general estimate of the cost. The following is a rough estimate; your unique circumstances will dictate the final expense of your divorce. For a detailed assessment based on the facts of your situation, speak to your family law attorney.
All cases will incur an initial filing fee. In San Diego this costs $435 and additional motions will run close to $60.
The cost of a complex divorce will be impacted by the necessity of experts. Many cases don’t require experts, but for those that do, it can be an expensive proposition. Here is a list of the common experts required in a divorce and an estimate of the cost for their services.
- Vocational Evaluation $1,500
- Custodial Evaluation $2,500 to $7,000
- Minor’s Counsel $2,000 to $5,000
- Forensic Accountant $5,000
- Special Master $2,500 to $5,000
- Home appraiser $350
- Personal Property Appraiser for collectibles, art, etc. $100+ per hour
- Computer expert for data recovery and discovery $75+ per hour
- Court Reporters and transcripts $0 to $2,500
- Process server $75 to $400
- Private investigator $300 to $3,500
- Mediator $150+ per hour
- Financial Planner or accountant $60+ per hour
Divorce isn’t cheap and the consequences of trying to save a little money now can sometime cost you more down the road. With many divorces you only get one shot to create an agreement that you will have to live with for many years. Issues like spousal support can rarely be modified; and child support and custody arrangements are challenging to modify once the parenting plan has been finalized.
The best way to reduce the cost of your divorce is to educate yourself on your rights and understand what to expect from the divorce process. The first step in educating yourself is to meet with an attorney. An experienced family law attorney can be an invaluable asset for helping you navigate the challenges of divorce and will be able to provide specific answer that address your unique circumstances.