The cost of divorce

More Than An Emotional Loss?

Once divorce is mentioned, there's a host of things to consider. The best-case scenario in a divorce is when it won't be contested and you two can split assets and debts equally (or at least as fairly as possible). But there's more to keep in mind. What is the real cost of divorce?

Divorce and Finances

How much does a divorce cost?

The cost of divorce varies widely depending on the method that you and your husband use--pro se, meditation, collaborative law or litigation. "But, it's safe to say the cost falls between $2,000 (for an uncontested pro se divorce) to tens of thousands of dollars for a hotly litigated divorce," says Brette Sember, retired divorce attorney and author of The Divorce Organizer and Planner and The Complete Divorce Handbook. "Most middle class families fall in the middle, and can expect to spend between $10,000 and $30,000." Of course, this doesn't take into account the actual assets settled and divided.

How much does a divorce attorney typically cost?

"How much have you got?" jokes David Pisarra, founder and president of the law office Pisarra and Gist, and contributor for Divorce 360. "Divorce lawyers can range from between $75 to $1,000 an hour depending on the geographic location. In the L.A. market it's typically around $400 to $500 an hour for experienced lawyers." Essentially, it's very important for anyone retaining a lawyer to make sure they are not only confident in their choice but view the relationship as an investment.

How are assets divided?

Assets are divided according to state laws, explains Sember. "Only marital assets are divided--property owned before the marriage is not included," she says. "How the property is divided depends on what kind of state you live in: community property, which assumes all property acquired during marriage is equally owned where the general idea is a 50/50 split; or equitable-distribution, where property is divided in way that is fair, but not necessarily equal. And of course, a pre-nuptial agreement will override state laws."

Are there any hidden costs to divorce?

In short, there are many hidden costs, say lawyers. "First of all, when people split up, they don't really realize they have a set amount of money coming in that pays for one home. Once they separate, that same amount of money that is coming in must now support two households--two electric bills, two cable bills, two gas bills, two mortgages or rents," Sember points out. "Other hidden costs include the time you have to take off from work to meet your attorney (who is only available during business hours) and to go to court or mediation sessions." You could easily end up having to take off 20 days or parts of days from work in a year, she estimates. "There are [also] filing fees, fees to have papers served, and fees for experts, if necessary. Most people in a divorce see a therapist, and/or take their kids to one, so that is another layer of cost," Sember adds.


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Comments on "The cost of divorce"

kita January 12, 2013 | 9:43 AM

my husband is cruel mean and abuses me emotionally I am losing it any help I just want to feel loved he has ruined my life

Mary December 26, 2012 | 7:36 PM

I'm going thru a divorce and mine is inevitable. No counseling or anything anyone can say can save this. My husband, soon to be ex is emotionally abusive and has a heart of stone. I have never been this miserable my entire life.

Debbie June 08, 2012 | 5:54 PM

WOW I never would have thought it cost on average $10K-$30K to get divorced. I must have been naive thinking it cost $200! I guess I'm also naive in thinking that my husband and I would be civil about everything if we did actually get divorced. I believe in working on your issues to your FULLEST capacity before deciding to divorce.

Samantha August 30, 2010 | 10:36 AM

My husband and I are separated and even after reading all of this, I'm still willing to go ahead with my divorce. You can't put a price tag on happiness. I was not physically abused. Emotionally abused at times and just downright miserable for you about 4 years. Money isn't worth my self-esteem and happiness. Money isn't worth my life. I'd rather be alone for the rest of my life than stay in a bad marriage to save 10K. And EVERY marriage cannot be saved. There are too many people out there to really believe that people have met the One. And to tell you the truth, people change or just might realize AFTER they got married that they don't like it. You never know how something will affect you until you try it. Remember when you were a little kid and you didn't want to eat your brussel sprouts and your mother/father would say, "At least try it. You don't know that you don't like it until you try it." The same applies for marriage. I have heard all these random views but the wonderful thing that I learned through all of this is that it's my life, not my husband's, not his family's, not my family's and definitely not the readers on She Knows and I'm going to do what I want to. Follow your hearts, ladies and gentlement, fork over the cash because that is the ultimate price for your freedom. Have a great day, everyone!

Michelle March 16, 2010 | 8:41 PM

This is why people get married-to make it hard to just walk away. The sad thing is that people would rather pay those costs than actually work on issues. Unless there is abuse-I believe most couples would be able to be happy within their marriage if each person claimed responsibility for their own happiness. It is not out there, and another person won't change it!

Pat January 25, 2010 | 3:14 AM

Sadly this real life info ,almost makes you just decide to sit and stay in a bad marriage.

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