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How Much Does a Divorce Cost? Breaking Down All the Costs of Divorce

divorce Aug 06, 2018

When considering divorce, your legal costs will be the most significant.  While matrimonial attorneys charge hourly rates ranging from $100 to $800+, the average hourly charge nationwide is $250.  

However in some regions of the country legal fees are much higher with many matrimonial attorneys charging $350 - $650 per hour.

One way to keep divorce costs down is to work with your attorney’s associate as much as possible and save the higher charges for court appearances, 4-way negotiations, and critical legal conversations.

Alternatives to Litigation

If you have a low-conflict case where you and your spouse can be transparent, amicable and reasonable, it might be less expensive to use mediation or collaboration.  You are not controlled by the court and if things move swiftly your divorce can cost significantly less in both time and money.

DYI Divorce:

If you are on a super tight budget, you may want to use the DIY approach.  If this is your choice, consider meeting with an attorney prior to working out an agreement so that you are aware of your rights.  

When the agreement is complete, meet with that attorney again to go over it for accuracy and to insure that it is worded in a manner that protects your interests.


Most matrimonial attorneys request a retainer that can run as low as $1000 and as high as $20,000 depending on where you live and the circumstances surrounding your divorce.  

If there is a high conflict custody battle, complicated and extensive finances, or the valuation of a business, the overall cost will be higher.

After the initial retainer is spent, most attorneys will request a smaller lump sum depending on how far along the case is and how much is left to bring it to completion.

Additional Costs during a Divorce:

With custody battles, you may also be investing in an attorney Ad litem for the children along with a psychological forensic evaluation adding to your expenses.

With complicated financials and business valuations, you may need to pay for a forensic accountant and/or specialists such as financial planners and QDRO experts to help make recommendations on the distribution of pensions and other investments.

Your attorney charges you for every conversation had, email read and responded to as well as any efforts s/he puts in with a third party on your behalf (ie. calls, emails and letters to your spouse’s attorney, the child’s attorney, the court, etc.)  

Pick and choose when to use engage.

Your Emotional Needs:

One of the most wasteful and expensive costs occur when you go to your attorney with your emotional upset over something your spouse did or said.

Your attorney is not an expert in this area and consequently, you pay a very high fee for them to simply listen without being able to offer much in terms of a solution.

You spend top dollar for your attorney to listen to you being upset when s/he is not schooled or capable of helping you sort out the feelings and frustrations around your soon-to-be-ex.  

Work with a divorce coach or therapist when emotional issues come up.  You will receive more value for your dollar and spend significantly less in the process.  

You will be investing in yourself and in learning how to navigate dicey situations with grace and calm.

Additionally, if you allow your anger or mistrust get the best of you, you can spend thousands in filing complaints that take time to write, file and defend.

If you decide you do not like your attorney, you need to move to another and invest in the time it takes for him/her to get up to speed on your case.  

The more you (or your spouse) dig your heels in and delay, the more money you will spend going to court (could take a few hours each time) simply to tell the judge that there has been no progress.

Divorce moves as slow as the more resistant party and costs as much as that party drags it out or clutters the case with trivial complaints.

How to keep costs down in a divorce:

  1. Choose the right legal approach based on the level of conflict, financial complexity and agreement on shared parenting.

  2. Hire the experts you need and engage with each only in their area of expertise.

  3. Talk to your spouse beforehand and hammer out any agreement you can before investing in legal negotiations.

  4. Make rational rather than emotional decisions. (The thousand dollar crystal set is not worth spending $5000 in legal fees over.)

If there is an imbalance of power, feelings of intimidation or insecurity,  or if there has been abuse or manipulation, then make sure to get the emotional support you need to be strategic and effective during your divorce.  

Get a free trial month on our online Divorce Support Membership Site and access the resources that can help navigate through the costs and legal aspects of divorce while supporting you through the emotional rollercoaster of divorce.


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