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The costs associated with divorce

As divorce lawyers in Charlotte, one of the first things our clients typically ask us is, “How much will my divorce cost?”

It is hard to imagine expenses that are more frustrating than those associated with divorce.

You likely entered into your marriage thinking it would be a lifelong relationship, but unfortunately, that is not always the case.

When a marriage comes to an end and you and/or your spouse deem it “beyond repair”, divorce is most likely the last step to finalizing the end of your marriage.

Finding an affordable divorce attorney is a crucial step to filing for divorce.

In this post, we are going to focus on the costs you can expect when filing for divorce in the United States. If you are just starting your research, you may also want to consider reviewing some of the following articles:

Spousal and Prenuptial Agreement Costs

If you are already married and simply want to know how much a divorce costs in North Carolina, this information may not apply to you.

With that said, Spousal Agreements can be created and altered before, during, or after a marriage, so if you are looking for a cost-efficient way to come to certain agreements with limited attorney assistance, creating a Spousal Agreement with your significant other may be a wise decision.

Spousal Agreements can help make the divorce process both easier and cheaper.

Spousal Agreements are legally binding documents outlining certain aspects of your marriage in case you and/or your spouse wish to file for divorce.

In many ways, they can replace certain aspects of a contested divorce; a far more expensive type of divorce than uncontested.

Prenuptial Agreements are simply agreements created before marriage.

Like Spousal Agreements, Prenuptial Agreements can be modified before or during marriage and they too require consent from both parties to be considered legally binding.

How much does a prenuptial/spousal agreement cost?

Spousal and Prenuptial Agreements vary depending on the complexity and the law firm you choose to hire.

On average, spousal prenuptial agreements cost between $1,200 – $2,500.

While this is usually a tough cost to pay – especially when you probably plan on a lifelong marriage – but having a legally binding document that outlines matters you think may be contested if a divorce should occur can potentially save you a substantial amount of money in the long run.

How much does it cost to file for divorce?

Most people are fully aware they will need to pay their divorce attorney, but what most people do not realize is the state requires you to pay certain fees when you file for divorce.

The amount you are required to pay will vary depending on the state in which you are filing for divorce but the average cost of filing for divorce in the United States is around $240.

Filing for divorce in Mississipi is typically the cheapest at $50 – $75 while, as you probably expected, filing for divorce in California usually costs between $435 – $450.

Here in North Carolina, the cost of filing your divorce with the state is $225.

You can click here to see a state-by-state break down of divorce filing costs.

If you and/or your spouse also which to change their last name (typically a woman changing to her maiden name) you may have to pay an additional cost.

This is another fee that varies depending on the state in which you are filing for divorce.

North Carolina has one of the lowest costs to change your name after divorce at just $10 while some states cost over $400.

This cost is in addition to the cost your state charges to file for divorce.

This is another average that could be much higher or lower depending on the state in which you reside, but taking the highest and lowest costs we found online, the average cost to change your name after a divorce in the United States is $222.

How much does an uncontested divorce cost?

Uncontested divorces are always the most inexpensive way to file for divorce.

An uncontested divorce means both you and your spouse have a complete agreement on every matter of a divorce.

In other words, there are no matters you need you, your spouse, and your attorneys need to fight/negotiate.

Uncontested divorces are typically a short and stress-free ordeal – or perhaps as stress-free as a divorce can be.

When you hire an attorney to handle your uncontested divorce, they will typically give you a flat rate fee they charge for divorces that are uncontested.

Unlike contested divorces, uncontested divorces are pretty consistent across the United States.

On average, the attorney costs associated with an uncontested divorce in the US is around $1,000.

Related: Tips for Helping Your Children During and After a Divorce

How much does a contested divorce usually cost in the United States?

Contested divorces are a much more complex matter and one that is extremely difficult to calculate since there are so many elements that can increase or decrease the attorney costs for an uncontested divorce.

Some things that are commonly contested when filing for a divorce include:

  • Child custody and visitations
  • Child support costs
  • Whether or not alimony will be awarded and if so, how much
  • Division of ownership of property (homes, condos, apartments, vacation property, rental property, etc.)
  • Division of ownership of other assets such (a business, wedding ring(s), automobiles, etc.)

According to a study done by CBS that researched and ranked the average cost of divorce by an attorney’s hourly rate, Wyoming is the cheapest with an average hourly rate of $187 and California is the most expensive with an average hourly attorney rate of $403.

We realize this probably is not much help, and if we were to factor in whether or not your divorce attorney charged a retainer fee, it would make things even more confusing.

Calculating an average cost for a contested divorce in the United States is seemingly impossible with the data we found online and the huge ranges we have seen on other websites.

So, instead, we will use the costs we typically charge in divorce cases along with costs we have seen other divorce attorneys list in states that are known to have more inexpensive divorce costs along with states that are known to have the most expensive.

Using this method, we calculated that the average cost for a contested divorce in the United States is around $12,000.

This is the cost to hire an attorney to handle every aspect of your divorce and all divorce mediation matters without having to provide litigation assistance.

If you and your spouse can not (and the attorneys you have both hired) can not find common ground in mediation, litigation would be the next step.

If you are forced to go to trial, those costs can easily double.

Put simply, the cost for a contested divorce that includes litigation (AKA goes to trial) is around $25,000.

Additional factors to consider when calculating the cost of divorce

On the surface, the costs associated with filing for a divorce and hiring a divorce attorney may seem extremely vague, but they are at least expenses you have considered.

Unfortunately, there are also other fees you may want to keep in mind when considering filing for divorce.

Along with the cost of filing and hiring a divorce lawyer, other expenses you should consider include:

  • Cost of packing and moving
  • Cost of having property or other assets evaluation
  • Child custody evaluation costs
  • How much you will pay (if any) in alimony

Averaging out the total cost for your divorce

As we said, these numbers can vary significantly depending on a seemingly infinite number of factors.

The best way to calculate how much your divorce would cost is to figure out whether or not you and your spouse will have any contested matters.

Additionally, you can also contact a local divorce and family law attorney to consult with them about your divorce and their costs.

Using the numbers listed above, here is a breakdown of how much an average divorce costs:

Average uncontested divorce costs in the United States

Filing fee: $242
Name change: $220
Uncontested divorce attorney fees: $1,000

Average contested divorce costs in the United States (no litigation)

Filing fee: $242
Name change: $220
Contested divorce attorney fees: $12,000

Average contested divorce costs in the United States (no litigation)

Filing fee: $242
Name change: $220
Contested divorce attorney fees (mediation + litigation): $25,000