why is divorce expensive

How Much Does a Divorce Cost In California?

Goldberg JonesDivorce, Divorce & Finances Leave a Comment

This is one of the most common questions we hear. 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.

Average Cost of Divorce In CA

The average cost of a divorce in California hovers around $17,500.

And that’s to end a marriage without any children. With kids that average takes a significant jump to $26,300.

Kids complicate matters in divorce. When deciding things like custody, visitation, child support, and all the other related issues, you have so much more to deal with. As a result, the process winds up taking more time.

This is a prime example of a point that we return to with our clients often: The more you have to deal with, the longer it will likely take and the more it will likely cost.

Children illustrate this point beautifully, but you also have other things to contend with. If you have a lot of shared property, it’s a long-term marriage, or if you have a ton of conflict and can’t agree on anything. All of those factors tend to drag out the divorce process. And again, the longer it takes, the more money it usually costs.

This ballpark range is strictly an estimate. Complex, highly contentious cases often end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s worst-case scenario, but it does happen.

Related Reading: Mediation Versus Arbitration

Court Costs and Filing Fees

All cases will incur an initial filing fee. In San Diego and the rest of California, this costs $435. Beyond that, any additional motions come with a fee. The same goes for responding to motions your ex files. And this doesn’t include the cost of your divorce lawyer if you have one.

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 hundred dollars.

There are some costs that are incurred in almost every divorce and others that are required only under special circumstances.

Related Reading: Types Of Legal Separation

Costs of Common Experts in a Contested Divorce Proceeding

Divorce cases also often include input from various evaluations and testimony from experts. Many don’t, but others do, which gets expensive in short order.

Here is a list of the common experts required in a divorce and an estimate of the cost of their services. These are mere estimates, and the fees vary a great deal depending on the provider. Still, they some cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

  • 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
  • A 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 sometimes 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. Child support and custody arrangements are also 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.

Related Reading: Divorce Discovery Tools

Actual Case Files: Uncontested Vs. Contested Divorce

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