Any way you slice it, divorce has a price tag. Attorney fees, filing fees, and other court-related costs can add up quicker than you think. So, what is the price of peace? How you go about obtaining your divorce is a huge determining factor in overall cost.
What are the reasons that divorces become costly? Let’s explore the true cost of divorce and shed some insight into how to avoid breaking the bank.
1. Why are divorces so expensive?
It’s important to remember that divorce isn’t a cookie-cutter process—no two divorces are the same. While every divorce is different, there are common factors that drive up expenses and prolong the process.
When disputes become irreconcilable and conflict is so deeply-rooted that cooperation is next to impossible, the divorce process becomes more complicated. Why does this play into the cost of your divorce? The answer is that divorce is a negotiation and that in situations where a mutual agreement cannot be easily reached, the time of professionals—family law practitioners, other attorneys, and the courts—drive up costs.
2. Costs associated with filing divorce
The cost to formally file for divorce varies from state to state. For example, in Washington state, the average cost—including the court filing fees, facilitator costs, and judicial surcharge—is around $350. There are also additional costs associated with serving your spouse with divorce papers. This can be done through an outside process server or through a lawyer.
If the divorce is a contested divorce—where neither party can come to an agreement—the costs associated with divorce tend to snowball. One of the reasons for this is that court appearances, paperwork submission, and responding to motions complicate divorces and tie up court time. Another reason for this is the cost of legal representation and other professional services.
3. The cost of legal representation when a divorce goes to court
A quick Google search of reputable finance publications—including Business Insider and Bankrate—will reveal that the average cost of divorce in the US is somewhere around $15,000. While the court costs mentioned above contribute to divorce costs, attorney fees tend to be one of the biggest divorce expenses.
If your divorce is contested, you probably want to consider hiring legal representation. Most divorce lawyers will bill for your initial consultation and will then establish an hourly pay rate for their time moving forward. If you pick up some of the legwork and get your account statements and paperwork together, it’ll save your attorney some time as well as shave some billable hours. A little organization on your part can end up saving you a pretty penny.
Pro-tip: Educate yourself. It’s a smart move to familiarize yourself with the services you are hiring your lawyer for. Be sure to have your attorney disclose billing practices upfront and don’t be afraid to ask questions about invoices. By not going in blind, you can better set yourself up to ensure that things are handled properly in the short-term and beyond.
4. Using mediation as an alternative to going through the court system
An alternative to hiring a divorce attorney is to enter a private mediation process. Hiring a mediator can cut down on costs. Divorce mediation in the US can range anywhere between $1000 and $1000 an hour, according to Thumbtack, and can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $7,500 (this varies by state and the complexity of each couple’s assets).
When considering the price, it’s important to remember that professionals bring with them varying levels of expertise. Mediators who are also skilled lawyers can really help expedite the divorce process. Remember, it’s not always best to go with the cheapest option, doing a little research upfront will ensure that you end up with a good fit.
It’s true that mediation is an easier road to divorce, but how do you know if choosing divorce mediation is right for you? If you are filing an uncontested divorce and feel confident in your ability to compartmentalize things in pursuit of the greater good, mediation is a great way to save money, stress, and time. Court system divorces tend to be contested divorces where parties can’t reach an agreement outside of court. A mediator can provide the expertise of a lawyer and some mediators even bring invaluable financial expertise to the table.
Divorce can be expensive but if you educate yourself and remain financially savvy, you can mitigate some of these costs. Is mediation right for you? Visit Foundations Divorce Solutions for more information about mediation services.