The expense associated with getting divorced will vary significantly based upon the net worth of the couple, the presence of dependent children and the complexity of the couple’s financial situation. In most divorces, the primary expense of getting a divorce is attorneys’ fees. Other expenses of divorce include court filing fees, appraisal and accounting fees, and, in some cases, private investigator fees. While the cost of divorce can vary from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, the typical cost for a divorce is between $15,000 and $30,000.
As a general rule, a streamlined or uncontested divorce will be less expensive than an adversarial or contested divorce. The reason for the reduced cost is that in an uncontested or streamlined divorce, the parties negotiate most, if not all, of the divorce settlement without significant involvement of attorneys or the court system. Contentious divorces that require significant legal involvement can be very expensive because the parties incur large legal fees by arguing over every small asset or issue. When one or both parties have unresolved anger or the desire to seek revenge against the other, the proceedings tend to be very expensive and time consuming.
Oftentimes, parties attempt to reduce the expense of divorce by foregoing legal advice altogether. While this may save money in the near term, it may create long term financial problems. First and foremost, an attorney can be useful in obtaining full financial disclosure from the opposing spouse and using that information to secure a fair divorce settlement. Also, the division of assets, particularly retirement and investment accounts, can have negative tax consequences if not handled properly.
The high cost of a divorce can be one reason why couples avoid the process for as long as possible. Many people feel that they cannot afford it. There are a number of steps that couples can take to reduce the cost of divorce proceedings. The most important step is for both spouses to come to the proceedings with an open mind and a willingness to compromise.