Breaking Down the Factors: What Is the Average Cost of Divorce?
When you decide divorce is the answer, as about half of all married couples in the country do, you’re going to be giving up more than just your partner.
Be prepared to part with some (or a lot) of your money, as there are a number of fees and other financial considerations to take into account when calculating the cost of divorce.
From legal costs to dividing assets, divorce can run into the thousands of dollars by the time the split is finalized. Let’s take a look at the expenses involved in a marital split that you should be aware of.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
The cost of legal fees attached to divorce can vary depending on whether both parties agree to the terms. In the case of an “amicable” or uncontested divorce where there are no major disputes, the costs of an attorney can hover around $1,000 or more depending on the state (New York and California tend to be higher.) However, many divorces end up being contested and require more legal intervention.
In the case of a contested divorce, terms cannot be reached by both parties so the matter often ends up in court. That means needing legal representation for a longer period of time because at this point a judge will make the final decision.
In the case of a contested divorce, how to file for divorce can become more complicated.
The Steps to File for Divorce
• Hiring a lawyer. They know the paperwork that’s required and will ask you the right questions about your shared assets and debts, as well as where the kids are better off living and how much will be required from the spouse to support them.
• Preparing all the appropriate divorce documents with the help of a lawyer to be filed with the court clerk.
• Serving a divorce petition to your partner through a county sheriff or another official that you hire. There can be situations where the partner needs to be tracked down, but they must be informed of the intention to divorce to continue the process. Your partner has 30 days to respond.
• Gathering of information and witnesses to support your reasoning for the divorce. Witnesses may be called if the divorce goes before a court.
• In the case of children or child support, you must also file the right forms with the nearest child support agency.
• Also, be prepared to attend pre-trial hearings.
• Heading to trial for a final decision if necessary.
Before your case reaches court, your lawyer will likely try to negotiate a settlement on your behalf with your spouse’s lawyer.
These are the types of settlements that you typically hear from in the celebrity world, and they are often in the millions of dollars.
But divorce settlements are designed to help the average person from going to trial, which can drag out depending on the details and add to your legal costs. Typically with a divorce settlement, both parties sign off on property division, child custody, visitation rights, and child support payments. They also lay the groundwork for how investments and pensions are handled, as well as anticipated expenses such as paying for your child’s university education.
The divorce settlement process is not for everyone, and the matter ends up in court anyway.
When an appropriate settlement can’t be reached or both parties are at odds, then the case will go before a judge. During this process, both parties can present witnesses to try and build a case in their favor, so this is an especially important time to have a competent lawyer with experience.
So, What’s the Overall Cost of Divorce?
As mentioned, there are a number of factors involved in how much you’ll end up paying for a divorce. There are different fees depending on the state, and the legal costs will also be more for contested cases that take longer to resolve.
For a divorce that both parties agree on, you can pay as little as $1,000 for a lawyer. In the case of a contested divorce, that number can rise to $15,000 or more if it goes to trial. The hourly rate for a divorce lawyer can be around $250. Most divorce attorneys will want an hourly rate agreement due to the unpredictability of each case.
Remember, that’s just the legal cost to finalize a divorce. You should also keep in mind the ongoing costs that are associated with divorce, such as child support payments. These amounts are usually tied to how long each parent will spend with their child, as well as income. Spousal support (more commonly known as alimony) is another consideration.
Many states have formulas in place to decide how long support payments should last. For example, a marriage that lasts less than five years means the awarded spouse will get payments for a time equal to half the duration of the marriage. For marriages that last for 10 years or more, that duration could be indefinite.
Generally, the partner that makes the most money stands to lose more in a divorce. If you owned a business when you got married, the spouse could seek money for that too if they contributed to its success (and in some cases, even if they didn’t.)
Let a Lawyer Help
Even if you’re having an uncontested divorce, it’s still beneficial to have a lawyer to handle all of the appropriate forms and make sure everything is done correctly.
In the case of a contested divorce, be prepared for a bit of a rollercoaster ride that can be smoothed out with the assistance of an attorney. Divorce is an emotional and potentially expensive process, but the cost of divorce is less so when you have the right legal representation.
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