Couple discusses how to pay for divorce

Anyone who has been through a divorce can tell you the process is stressful and sometimes costly.

The type of divorce a couple decides to pursue will be a big factor in the total cost. For example, a divorce tried in court with lawyers may cost more than one settled out of court with a mediator.

If you find yourself facing a divorce, it’s important to understand how much the entire process could cost. Check out the points below to start. And if you need more help, consider talking to a professional.

How much does a typical divorce cost?

Recent data show that people typically spend $10,000 or more on a divorce.1

Average filing fees can range from a low of $80 in the District of Columbia, to over $400 in other states.2 In addition, your state might require—and charge for—mediation, or for courses on the divorce process or co-parenting.

If you need to work with a lawyer, legal fees will be higher if you live in a major metropolitan area.

Rates for an experienced divorce attorney can exceed $300 per hour.3 A less-experienced lawyer may bill at a lower rate but might take more time to work your case. Costs for other professional services, like those provided by a CPA or tax advisor, may vary depending on where you live.

You might also have to pay for services related to refinancing a mortgage, like a real estate appraisal.

In the end, the cost of the divorce will depend on how simple or complex the issues are around children and assets—and how much the couple can agree upon.

What do different types of divorce cost?

An uncontested divorce is when a divorcing couple settles their issues without professional help. Instead, the couple decides together how to divide their property, the amount of any alimony payments, and how they’ll handle child custody.

In this case, the divorcing parties complete all the documentation and filings on their own. This is the least expensive path. Average costs for a do-it-yourself divorce range from $300-$1,500.4

But even an uncontested divorce can require input from lawyers. Depending on the situation, legal help could cost $2,000 or more for each spouse.5

In a mediated divorce, the couple hires a mediator, or a neutral third party, to help them agree on terms. Mediation typically costs from $5,000-$15,000.5

A collaborative divorce is when each party hires a lawyer but agrees to settle without going to court. The couple and their lawyers may need to meet several times to reach an agreement. The collaborative process typically costs more than mediation.

A contested divorce is the most expensive option. In this case, lots of issues can make it impossible for the couple to agree on one or more terms of the split, so lawyers must negotiate on their behalf. A contested divorce that goes to trial can cost more than $100,000.6

Are there ways to lower costs?

The most direct way to save money on divorce is to handle it yourself. That way, you will not have to pay for lawyers or a mediator.

But if you decide you need legal help to make sure the terms of the divorce are fair to you, you might be able to hire a lawyer for limited assistance representation (LAR). LAR cuts legal costs because the client handles much of the paperwork that doesn’t need as much legal expertise.

Another way to cut legal costs is to work with a more junior lawyer or paralegal as much as possible, rather than a partner in the firm. Their hourly rates will be lower, but will also vary by firm.

And to limit the number of hours you’ll be billed for, organize your own financial records. Clients who do this work in advance can save thousands of dollars in legal fees. Also, it may be a good idea to keep emails and calls short and direct and divide household items on your own.

How can I plan for divorce costs?

There are ways to plan for divorce-related expenses so there are no surprises. If an uncontested divorce is not in the cards, decide on the type of divorce you will pursue. Then you can gather information about the average range of those costs in your area.

That could involve asking local divorce lawyers about their rates, and whether they offer a payment plan. It might also be helpful to speak with a financial planner or certified divorce financial analyst to understand the big picture.

What kinds of expenses could I incur after a divorce?

The total cost of divorce involves other expenses, too. For instance, you might have to move and set up a new household. Or you might need to make changes to insurance or phone plans. Longer-term expenses could include child support or alimony payments.

Divorce is one of the most stressful life events a person can go through. That’s why it’s helpful to know what you can expect to pay and how you might be able to reduce the cost.

And if you’re worried about where to find the funds, a personal loan from Discover® can help.

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