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- When it comes to getting divorced, many concerns come to mind — one at the forefront, however, is exactly how much the process is going to cost.
- According to a recent survey by Bankrate, the average cost of a divorce in the United States is around $15,000 per person.
- However, it can be much higher, as many factors can impact the overall cost of divorce — including the length of time it takes for your divorce to go through, the people you hire, and whether you and your spouse settle in or out of court.
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The divorce rate is going down in the US — in 2017, the CDC reported an average of 2.9 divorces per 1,000 Americans, compared to 4 divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2001. Of the more than 2 million marriages that occurred in 2017, exactly 787,251 ended in divorce — resulting in a divorce rate of 35%. Although fewer couples are getting divorced in recent years, the dissolution of marriages is still an issue on many peoples’ minds. When it comes to getting divorced, many concerns come to mind — one at the forefront, however, is exactly how much getting a divorce is going to cost.
One thing to keep in mind when researching the average price of getting a divorce is that costs operate very much on a case-by-case basis. The overall cost of the process depends greatly on where you live, whether you and your spouse have children or not, whether you own property together, and many more factors. In general, divorces become increasingly expensive depending on three main factors: how long the process takes, who you hire, and how much you or your spouse are willing to fight to get what you want out of the divorce.
However, if you’re looking for the average expenses of each element of divorce, they are out there. According to a recent survey by Bankrate, the average cost of a divorce in the United States is around $15,000 per person. This figure takes into account the following expenses associated with getting a divorce — court filing costs, attorney fees, parent education classes, mediation fees, costs for evaluations such as psychiatric evaluations or counseling, "guardian ad litem" fees, and other expenses that may pop up depending on your situation.
Bankrate also looked at the costs involved if the couple getting divorced owned property together. This included refinancing costs, government recording fees, and any additional hourly attorney fees.
In order to determine how much it actually costs to get divorced, we broke down each expense and included the cost estimates of each element of getting divorced. We also sought the advice of Jacqueline Newman, Managing Partner at Berkman Bottger Newman and Schein, LLP in New York City, who specializes in litigation.
Court filing costs
Divorce is classified as a civil matter. When you file for divorce, it effectively works almost like a lawsuit — one person must file the suit, and another must be served. The cost of filing for divorce varies by court and by state. However, LegalZoom reports that the average cost of filing a divorce is around $300.
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According to Thumbtack, attorneys charge a minimum of $1,000, on average, for an uncontested divorce. However, attorney fees are often relative to exactly how long it takes for the divorce to go through, from filing until completion. Uncontested divorces tend to go through at a much speedier rate. Nolo reports that the average length of time it takes to get divorced is around 11 months — if your divorce takes less or more time, this may affect the cost.
Business Insider spoke to Jacqueline Newman, Managing Partner at Berkman Bottger Newman and Schein, LLP in New York City. Newman specializes in divorce law, especially in regards to prenuptial agreements and high-income divorce settlements and proceedings.
She explained that the longer it takes for a divorce to go through, the higher your attorney fees will be.
"Divorce as a whole is really expensive. Then, when you’re dealing with counsel fees, that’s a whole new level of expense. It depends on how much people want to fight. A line I use to clients when they come in and they tell me they want to fight is, ‘Would you rather pay for your kid’s college or mine?’"
Hiring an attorney to help you fight a contested divorce can cost anywhere from about $2,500 to several thousand dollars, on average, or more. Going to court almost always adds costs and time to divorces. Nola reports that while divorce cases that settled out of court took an average of 9 months to complete, cases that went to court on any issues lasted an average of 17.6 months.
Newman also explained that most cases settle. In fact, more than 90 percent of divorce cases settle prior to going to trial. "It’s just a question of whether it will settle now before you spend tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands in legal fees, or if it’s going to settle later," she says.
Mediation can save you money or add costs to your divorce, depending on how you use it. Mediators can sometimes be used in place of an attorney so you and your partner can civilly decide how you want to split up your assets and come to a settlement agreement without going to trial. Depending on where you live, a professional mediator may charge $100 to $200 per hour — this can end up costing roughly half of what an attorney would charge.
However, if the mediation proves unsuccessful and you still need to hire an attorney or go to trial, mediation fees can simply become an added expense.
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