The Average Cost of Divorce and 5 Major Financial Mistakes to Avoid

Most of us have heard that the quickest place to get a divorce is Nevada (actually, it’s Alaska), but where is the least expensive state where you can get a divorce?

Research conducted by GoBanking Rates determined that the least expensive state for divorce was Wyoming. The most expensive is California.

While the cost of a divorce can vary greatly depending on the state, who you hire, and the disputes between you and your spouse, three key costs were considered when calculating total cost:

  1. Divorce attorney fees
  2. The price of alternative dispute resolution
  3. Court costs

Let’s take a look at some average costs for divorce and financial errors to avoid during the painful process.

Attorney fees

According to a nationwide survey by the legal site Nolo.com, the average cost for a divorce attorney is $250 per hour, meaning most people pay between $150 and $350 hourly for their divorce attorney.

Almost more important than the hourly cost, is the number of hours you will need an attorney to work on your divorce. Nolo’s survey found that the average couple spent $12,800 on their divorce, which comes down to about 50 hours at the $250 rate.

Of course, not every divorce requires a lawyer, but Neil Rambana, an attorney with Rambana & Ricci in Florida, says, “If the parties cannot agree on child custody, support, or property distribution (assets and liabilities), then it is important to seek the advice and counsel of an attorney. Emotions are usually high, and processing these challenges may be distorted by the parties.”

Rambana estimates the cost of divorce at $500 to $15,000, “depending on the sophistication of the estate, length of the marriage, child support, etc.”

How much is a divorce if no attorneys are needed?

Rambana explains, “Typically, a couple who can amicably come to an agreement, via a marital settlement agreement, may avoid representation by an attorney. In Florida, for example, the courts provide all the documentation necessary to effectuate a dissolution of marriage without the need for an attorney.”

If an attorney isn’t necessary, the paperwork, court filings, and other complications may require you to seek alternative help and advice. Here are some less expensive options you might consider:

Divorce mediation

This is the process of negotiating your divorce out of court and with the help of a mediator. It is still recommended that each spouse consult a lawyer as well. However, because the hours required of that lawyer will decrease dramatically, the billable hours will be much lower. The cost of mediation can vary widely, but Mediation Matters estimates the average cost to be $6,000 to $7,000.

Legal document preparers

If your divorce is uncontested, consider an LDP. They will fill out the documents required for divorce and file them with the court. Divorcenet.com estimates the cost of hiring an LDP between $175 and $700 depending on whether or not you have kids, where you live, and a few other factors.

Online divorce help

Web-based divorce services typically help you fill out paperwork, but they don’t file it with the court. The cost of this type of service runs between $200 and $500.

5 major financial mistakes to avoid

Rambana says the best way to save on divorce is to work everything out with a mediator, if possible, and avoid a trial. “If you go to trial, that could cost much more because your attorney will need to depose and prepare for a contested matter.”

Avoiding a trial may be out of your control, depending on your spouse and the contentiousness of the divorce. So, here are five other mistakes to avoid, according to Nolo:

1) Don’t underestimate your expenses

Be exact when figuring out what exactly you spend each month. This will be important to know when things like alimony and child support are decided.

2) Don’t make financial decisions one at a time

If you look at each asset or source of income separately, it will be difficult to get the big picture and to consider important factors such as taxes, inflation, and more. You will need to look at the overall financial picture in order to get a fair settlement.

3) Try and pay off unsecured debt before the divorce is final

Even if you agree to split any credit card or other unsecured debt in the divorce settlement, the credit card company won’t care if there is a lapse. They will come after the person whose name is on the card. If you’re able to pay off this debt before the divorce, it will make the situation easier.

4) Make sure you get your portion of your spouse’s pension

These retirement plans have value today, even if you can’t access them until retirement. Make sure you’re given your fair share as the spouse. This may require the help of an actuary to figure out the amount.

5) Secure alimony or child support with insurance

If your spouse dies or becomes disabled, make sure there is language in the plan that ensures you will still get paid.

Get help financing your legal fees

Divorce can be expensive. In fact, many people choose to put it off because of how expensive it can be. But why stay trapped in an unhappy marriage when you have options?

A personal loan, for example, is one of the most popular options people use to finance a divorce. Plus, it’s super easy to find out if you qualify and what you qualify for.

All you have to do is answer a few simple questions and you’ll receive pre-approved loan offers from various lenders without hurting your credit score.

You can then compare each lender side-by-side to find the best one for you.

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