Divorce Cost 2019 | Average Lawyer Fees – Moshier (2022)

Divorce Cost 2019 | Average Lawyer Fees – Moshier (1)

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On average, a divorce costs about $15,000 for each spouse, with prices ranging anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 in the US for 2019. *Disclaimer – this is not an actual quote for your divorce. Legal fees are estimates. The estimates are based on similar types of cases. There is no guarantee as to legal fees or costs in any case, and there is no guarantee as to the outcome of any case. You should consult an attorney for an evaluation of your individual case, as the costs and outcomes can vary from case to case. Contact Moshier Law at 480-999-0800for more information.

Making the decision to end your marriage is never simple or easy, but one of the major factors beyond the societal and emotional relationship’s ending is the cost. In a lot of cases, the legal fees are the biggest expense in a divorce. Planning ahead will save you money in the long run.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost on Average in 2019?

The national average cost of a divorce is about $15,000 each. This includes court costs, attorneys’ fees, and the cost of hiring outside professionals such as tax advisers, child custody assessors, and/or real estate appraisers.

The time it takes to get divorced is a big determining factor of the overall cost. For example, the average divorce takes somewhere between 4 months and 11 months. And if there is a trial, it can take beyond a year.

What Factors Influence the Cost of Divorce?

The average cost of divorce is a difficult question to answer. The cost depends on a couple of factors – whether you both agree on particular things, and if either of you needs or wants to hire an attorney.

Factors influencing the average cost include:

  • Mediation
  • The hourly rate of attorneys versus a retainer fee
  • If the divorce is uncontestedor contested
  • Child(ren) custody assessment
  • The location of where the divorce is being filed, and the local filing fees
  • Child(ren) custody
  • Spousal Support

One thing to understand is that a divorce is, basically, a lawsuit. Once one partner files for divorce, they’re suing for divorce.

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What if You Both Agree?

The more unresolved issues or factors by the one filing for divorce and the other person, like custody or children’s care or property maintenance, or other shared holdings like pensions, investments, financial support, it is more likely to cost the person filing for divorce. The more resolved issues by each party, it is likely to cost less.

If you both agree on major issues, you can file for an uncontested divorce – the least costly – which could cost you under $500 if you file and write your own divorce documents. Each state charges their own costs for filing for divorce, even uncontested filings, so an exact cost is unforeseen. A lot of states can also grant the one filing a filing fee waiver based on income. For uncontested divorces, if the state where either of you file has a required waiting period, once that is completed, the divorce is final. An uncontested divorce is the least costly, and the most direct because there are no lawyers or mediators needed to help each party agree with the other.

The Average Cost of a Divorce Not Using a Lawyer

The filing fee is the minimum charge on a divorce. Filing fees may be from around $70, the lowest, in Wyoming, to $435 in California. If you hire a lawyer, these fees are typically part of the retainer.

Not many couples can identify, agree on, and respectfully divide assets in a divorce devoid of a lawyer. If there are no children involved, and there aren’t many assets – if you got married owning your own cars and renting your home, for example – and agree that no alimony is needed for either party since, it was a short-lived marriage, and you can do it online yourself.

One person is required to file a legal request for the dissolution of marriage with the local county court clerk. As said before, each court has a filing fee. The average is $300, but may be around $500 in some states, such as California.

When filing a divorce appeal, you are also required to serve the divorce papers, to the other. In a divorce case, the papers can be served by mail or in person. In online cases, the “do-it-yourself” divorce, the person who initially filed the request, typically submits the summons and a petition with the local sheriff’s department for the papers to be served by law enforcement or organizes for a private process server to serve the request – a signature from the other person declaring that they want to contest it or agree to the terms. Using a private process server to serve the other typically costs around $50.

A lot of states, such as California, have resources online for filing for divorce, including forms for responding to a divorce filing. Some state websites have sources for filing online for a support request, an annulment, or to end or change the order for child or spousal support.

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The Average Cost of a Divorce Using a Lawyer

If there are considerable assets to divide, spousal support, or child custody to decide, each party typically benefits by hiring their own lawyer.

Hiring a lawyer raises the cost for each party. With a lawyer, the divorce could cost you a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, on the condition of how much of the lawyer’s time you’re billed. Lawyer fees, charged by the hour, may range from a few hundred dollars each hour to upwards of $500. For a lot of lawyers, a 15-minute consultation over the phone, or an email, could cost you a fraction of a chargeable hour. A half-hour may cost you a charged hour. Lawyers charge for emails, phone calls, court preparation, text messages, depositions (interviewing others on record), discovery (gathering information from the others lawyer associated with your divorce), document prep and examination, and research.

Lawyers bill an average of about $1,000 for an uncontested divorce. In states with high standards of living, like New York or California, lawyers may charge an average of $3,500-$5,000 to assist you in completing an uncontested divorce. A contested divorce — in which critical issues like asset division and child support or custody, or even getting divorced, cannot be agreed on — may cost from an average of $2,500 up to a couple of thousand dollars or more. In contested divorces, the issues may, at the end of the day, need to be handled in front of a judge. Divorces that go to trial may cost couples upwards of $20,000 on average to finish, with a minimum of $15,000 going towards attorneys’ fees. Settling a divorce case without going to court can cost around $15,000.

Many lawyers charge a retainer or flat fee to assist with a divorce, but more commonly family law attorneys charge an average of $150-$250 each hour, although some might charge up to $650 or more an hour to help their clients during a difficult or complex divorce, like one where couples own businesses or other more complicated mutual assets. A retainer will cover a lot of the court fees, filing fees, and the lawyers’ time to talk in person, communicate with you by text, phone or email, and to appear in court or other procedures in person.

A contested divorce that involves children that requires lawyers to help hash out custody details, will cost more because of the lawyer’s time. Typically, the more time a child(ren) spends with one parent, the less child support payments that parent will have to pay. But in contested divorces where there is no agreeing on a schedule or child custody, the courts might demand a child custody assessment be done by an experienced psychologist that will interview both parents individually. The psychologist will also talk to the children and observe them with each parent at home. If the child custody assessor works for the count, the assessment will cost an average of around $1,000-$2,500. If it is a private assessor, the cost could be $10,000 or more.

Spousal support decisions may also take lots of time and raise the cost to the spouses.

There are ways to cut costs by using a lawyer for only a fraction of your case: also known as ‘limited scope representation.’ You may have your lawyer just examine documents or deal with your lawyer what you won’t pay for and what you will, like agreeing to use the lawyer to prep and examine documents but not to bill you for texts, emails or phone calls.

A trial or hearing also clearly increases the costs. Trials may increase costs to you for multiple expert witnesses, and the expense of going to trial by itself usually ends in divorce cases being settled without going to court. Because of this, judges in a lot of states appointed to contested divorce cases need spouses to do everything in their power to come to a settlement agreement and avoid a trial, since a trial costs not just the couple getting divorced but also the state and city where the divorce is happening.

If there are children involved, between you two or even individually, expenses increase with agreements needing to be reached or resolved in regard to visitation rights, child support, and child custody.

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Devoid of these issues, a divorce among two people in agreement will save both parties’ costs. It is for this reason why an uncontested divorce is the least costly.

If both parties can agree on the primary issues of the divorce, you may create your own agreement. The sole cost would be for filing fees, serving papers, and the expense of divorce papers if you acquire them online. Getting them online you will be charged for arranging divorce papers, but they may also have lawyers go over them on your behalf. Many courts may give you a divorce package for free.

In addition to an uncontested divorce, another way to save money and stay away from trial would be to utilize the mediation of a collaborative divorce.

In mediation, you both avoid trial by mediating with an unbiased 3rd party, a mediator.

Since it involves a 3rd party, typically a professional mediator, former judge, attorney-mediator, or former commissioner, mediation may still end up costing between a couple thousand and $10,000 dollars, on average, depending on the mediation time and what is involved. Mediation typically costs an average of $100-$300 per hour.

A collaborative divorce is less costly than going to trial. In a collaborative divorce, each party retains attorneys. Your spouse, you, and both of your attorneys get together to discuss contested portions of the divorce. If you both eventually come to agreements, while the attorneys will still cost, it will save you the cost of litigation.


  1. Miller, Terin. “How Much Does a Divorce Cost on Average in 2019?” TheStreet, 8 Mar. 2019, https://www.thestreet.com/personal-finance/education/how-much-does-divorce-cost-14882536.

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When a case demands litigation, you’ll have the benefit of 19 years of litigation experience in California and Arizona. But when a case demands collaborative law, or mediation, we can meaningfully describe why collaborative law or mediation may or may not be your best option.

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Divorce Cost 2019 | Average Lawyer Fees – Moshier (2)

Jennifer Moshier, Scottsdale Divorce Lawyer


Who pays the fees in a divorce? ›

There appears to be a myth that the person being divorced (known as the Respondent) always pays the fees for a divorce, when in reality this is not the case in the majority of divorce cases. The person filing for the divorce (known as the Applicant) will always pay the divorce filing fee.

How much does a divorce cost USA? ›

The median cost of a divorce in the U.S. is $7,000, while the average is between $15,000 and $20,000. But this is not a one-size-fits-all price tag. More complicated “contested” divorces can be significantly more expensive, while uncontested divorces can be significantly cheaper.

Do you have to be separated for 2 years to get a divorce? ›

They must have lived separate and apart for at least two years. This view is taken by the courts to give the parties time to look back on their relationship and try to reconcile without having to be concerned about prejudicing divorce proceedings.

Is it better to be the petitioner or the respondent in a divorce? ›

Q: Is it better to be the petitioner or respondent in a divorce? A: There is no advantage to being either the petitioner or respondent in a divorce.

How much I have to pay if I divorce my wife? ›

Quantum of Alimony as Per the Indian Divorce Alimony Rules

The quantum is as follows: Paying the amount one time: There is no rule for paying the one-time amount of alimony according to the Indian divorce alimony rules. However, the court can grant one-fifth or one-third of the husband's or wife's net worth.

Who bears the costs in divorce? ›

The spouse who applies for the divorce is known as the Petitioner and the other person is the Respondent. As they are the person applying for the divorce, the Petitioner will from the outset be responsible for the cost of the divorce. So, on average the Petitioner's costs will be higher than the Respondent's.

How much is a lawyer consultation fee? ›

What Are Typical Lawyer Hourly Fees? Lawyer fees for a consultation vary throughout the United States. On average, consultation costs will range from about $250 an hour to $350 an hour. Rates will change depending on location, type of law, and attorney experience.

Why is divorce so expensive? ›

What makes a divorce so expensive has a lot to do with conflict and disagreements. Frequent miscommunication doesn't help to lower costs, either. If you can handle your case using an alternative method to litigation, you're likely to find yourself saving some money.

What state is cheapest for divorce? ›

For many, divorce can be costly. GOBankingRates rounded up the average divorce filing fees and attorneys' fees in all 50 US states. California is the most expensive state to file for divorce in, followed by Connecticut and Florida. The least expensive state to get a divorce in is North Dakota.

How long does a divorce take from start to finish? ›

Step 4 – Application for Final Order

Overall, taking into account the mandatory waiting periods of 20-weeks and 6-weeks, you should expect your divorce to complete within 6-7 months.

How do you know your marriage is over? ›

"If you're no longer spending any time together, if one or both partners is spending all their time at work, with friends, online — and if feels like a relief not to be with each other — it's a sign that you've already disengaged from the marriage." You don't support or listen to each other.

What is unreasonable behaviour in divorce? ›

'Unreasonable behaviour' in a divorce is used to describe your spouse acting in such a way that you can't reasonably be expected continue living with them.

Who pays for the divorce petitioner or respondent? ›

The spouse or civil partner who applies for the divorce is known as the Petitioner and the other person is the Respondent. As they are the person applying for the divorce, the Petitioner will from the outset be responsible for the cost of the divorce.

Can petitioner argue in court? ›

Firstly, the petitioner has no right to file written arguments unless the Court expressly permits the same. In this case, no such permission is granted. Secondly, if the petitioner wants to rely upon the additional documents, the petitioner will have to take out an appropriate application.

Can the petitioner make the respondent pay for the divorce? ›

While the general rule is that the petitioner is responsible for divorce costs, if blame is being assigned by the petitioner against the respondent for the breakdown of a marriage, then the petitioner is legally entitled to have the respondent pay the costs.

Who loses more in a divorce? ›

Marriage is connected to a longer lifespan for both men and women. While both genders see a rise in deaths following divorce, the rate for men is 1,773 per 100,000, compared to 1,096 for women.

Does wife get money in divorce? ›

Courts have powers to grant alimony to the wife even where the husband is granted a decree. It is quite possible there may be no alimony/maintenance awarded at all depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. Assessment of the amount of permanent alimony is entirely the court's discretion.

Can a working wife get alimony? ›

Even though your spouse has a full-time job, they are still entitled to ask for spousal support. They can ask for support once a legal separation or divorce is filed with the court. If the judge deems it necessary, he or she can order you to pay spousal support even while your divorce is pending.

Do men get money in divorce? ›

Although matrimonial laws are not gender specific, the general trend is that if spousal support is paid after divorce, it's a man who pays it and a woman who receives it.

Who does divorce favor the most? ›

(In case you're wondering, men and women do agree on one thing: less than five percent of both men and women think that divorce courts favor men.) Opinions also differ significantly depending whether a person is single, married or divorced. A whopping 74 percent of divorced men feel that divorce courts favor women.

What is money called in divorce? ›

Alimony is financial support paid by one ex-spouse to the other after the marriage has legally ended. Alimony is also sometimes called spousal support. Temporary alimony (also called pendente lite alimony) can be granted while the divorce is in progress, to help until the divorce is final.

What are reasonable legal costs? ›

Reasonable legal costs means attorneys' fees, costs, charges, and all other litigation expenses in connection with the defense of a "claim" or negotiation of cleanup standards and representation before environmental agencies in connection with "discovery", limited to rates we actually pay to counsel we retain in the ...

Can lawyer fees be paid monthly? ›

You can ask if your lawyer's firm will allow you to make payments over time. Sometimes law firms can offer those arrangements. For example, you might be able to pay your legal costs by instalments. You should check whether there will be any additional charge for paying in this way.

What are the four main issues in divorce? ›

There are four major issues in divorce: property division, alimony, child custody, and child support.

How can we avoid expensive divorce? ›

If you want to avoid an expensive divorce, the biggest piece of advice is to figure out a way the two of you can work together. If you go to mediation and or use the Collaborative Divorce process, you can find agreement the issues without the expense of a courtroom fight.

How much is the most expensive divorce? ›

Jeff Bezos's divorce in 2019 from MacKenzie Bezos; is the most expensive divorce with MacKenzie Bezos getting $38 billion ($40.3 billion inflation adjusted). Alec Wildenstein's divorce in 1999 from Jocelyn Wildenstein; $3.8 billion ($6.2 billion inflation adjusted).

What is the hardest state to get a divorce? ›

South Carolina requires a one-year separation before you can even start the divorce process. South Carolina is actually in a tie with Vermont for having the longest processing times. Vermont and Rhode Island are also known as being some of the hardest places to get a divorce.

Which state is best to file for divorce? ›

These are their top 10.
  1. New Hampshire. Oddly enough, the state with the lowest divorce rate is the best state for divorce. ...
  2. Wyoming. It's cheap! ...
  3. Alaska. ...
  4. Idaho. ...
  5. South Dakota. ...
  6. Nevada. ...
  7. Maine. ...
  8. Tennessee.
16 Nov 2011

What state offers the quickest divorce? ›

Alaska: In Alaska you can get divorced for $150 with a minimum of 30 days processing time. Although this is not the cheapest state in which to divorce, the processing speed give Alaska its rating of easiest state for divorce, with an ease of filing score of 100/100.

What are the five stages of divorce? ›

There are two processes in divorce.

The emotional process can be broken down into 5 stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

What are the three stages of divorce? ›

21 May The Three Phases of Divorce. When you look at divorce from a 30,000 ft level, there are three distinct stages: The decision to get divorced, the decision on the negotiation process for the divorce, and finally negotiating the divorce.

Whats the fastest divorce process? ›

Uncontested divorce and mediation are two of the fastest types of separation – if your ex-spouse agrees to it. An uncontested divorce means that both parties agree on (most) divorce-related issues. Hence, the divorce can go faster because there's less back-and-forth.

What can be used against you in a divorce? ›

Spending marital money on extramarital affairs. Transferring marital funds to another person before a separation. Spending unreasonable amounts on business expenditures. Selling marital assets below the market value.

How do you tell if a man is unhappy in his marriage? ›

Here are some signs a guy is unhappy in his relationship:
  1. He spends excessive time on his devices even when he's with his partner. ...
  2. He does not show affection anymore. ...
  3. He doesn't like to spend much time with his partner. ...
  4. He feels sad and depressed with his partner. ...
  5. He prioritizes other people before his partner.
5 Jul 2022

What are the signs of an unhappy husband? ›

10 Signs to Show Your Husband Is Not Happy in Your Marriage
  • He doesn't spend time with you anymore.
  • He has a new obsession.
  • Your husband is emotionally unavailable.
  • Your husband stops communicating.
  • He will not discuss the future.
  • Your husband has developed a short temper.
  • Your husband starts nitpicking.
17 Feb 2021

What is mental cruelty in divorce? ›

Mental cruelty means a course of unprovoked and abusive misconduct towards one's spouse, causing unendurable humiliation, distress and miseries so it impairs the complainant's physical and mental health and it makes it impractical for the complainant to maintain the marital status.

What is one of the most disruptive issues in a divorce? ›

When child custody is contested, it becomes one of the most important aspects of any divorce case. As this issue is addressed legally, it is vital to your case that you have a qualified, experienced attorney by your side.

What is cruelty in divorce? ›

Cruelty includes voluntary conduct reprehensible in nature or which is a departure from the normal standards of conjugal kindness on the part of one party to a marriage thereby occasioning injury to the health of the other spouse or a reasonable apprehension of it on the part of that other spouse and being conduct ...

Does adultery affect divorce settlement? ›

Therefore adultery can increase the likelihood of divorce settlement negotiations breaking down and ending up in court.

Does it make a difference who files for divorce first? ›

make a difference who submits the application for divorce. There may be financial implications, for whoever files the petition will incur additional court costs. In some cases the costs of divorce can be shared between the parties.

Can you get a free divorce after 5 years? ›

It is a myth that you can just get an automatic divorce after five years of separation without your spouse being involved. If you can't locate your ex-partner then you must show the court that you have done your utmost to find them.

Can I fight my own divorce case? ›

Answer. Yes. You have the right to fight your own cases without engaging any advocate. It is not necessary that you must engage an advocate to fight your case in a court.

Can I fight my case in court without lawyer? ›

Few Courts where It is Compulsory to Fight Your Own Case and No Advocates are Allowed. Rule 37 of the Family Court (Rules) 1988 empowers the Court to permit the parties to be represented by a lawyer in Court.

Who argues first petitioner or respondent? ›

The attorney for appellant or petitioner argues first. Then counsel for respondent or the real party in interest argues. The attorney for appellant or petitioner has the right of reply.

Who pays Court fees for divorce? ›

There appears to be a myth that the person being divorced (known as the Respondent) always pays the fees for a divorce, when in reality this is not the case in the majority of divorce cases. The person filing for the divorce (known as the Applicant) will always pay the divorce filing fee.

Who pays divorce settlement? ›

However, the onus lies on the one seeking the settlement money, which is the wife in most cases, to prove the worth of the other partner and his/her capacity to pay the amount demanded.

Who pays in a divorce? ›

The spouse who applies for the divorce is known as the Petitioner and the other person is the Respondent. As they are the person applying for the divorce, the Petitioner will from the outset be responsible for the cost of the divorce. So, on average the Petitioner's costs will be higher than the Respondent's.

Who pays for solicitors in divorce? ›

The Petitioner is responsible for covering the cost of the preparation and submission of the divorce paperwork, together with obtaining legal advice and paying the Court fees. The Respondent will only be responsible for covering their own legal fees.

Who pays for divorce on grounds of adultery? ›

where adultery is the fact proven, the respondent will pay for 100% of the costs of the divorce (including the court fee). For unreasonable behaviour, the couple will split the costs 50/50. For separation or desertion, the petitioner will pay 100% of the costs.

Why are divorces expensive? ›

More than fees related to court or lawyers, costs can also add up when you start working with other professionals such as divorce coaches, therapists, private mediators, and other kinds of legal or mental health practitioners.

Do both parties in a divorce need a solicitor? ›

There are no legal obligations for either party to use a solicitor for a divorce, however, in complicated divorces which involve substantial matrimonial assets, both parties will often have their own divorce lawyer.

Do I need a solicitor or lawyer for divorce? ›

The answer to the question is simple: yes, you can get divorce without a solicitor. There is no requirement that you must have a lawyer do it for you, or that you must take legal advice. But that simple answer is deceptive.

Who pay alimony if wife cheated? ›

But if we look at Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 under Section 125 (4) No wife shall be entitled to receive an allowance from her husband under this section if she is living in adultery, or if, without any sufficient cause or reason, she refuses to live with her husband or if they are living separately by mutual ...

What proves adultery in a divorce? ›

To prove adultery via circumstantial evidence, one must show that the adulterous spouse had both the “disposition” to commit adultery and the “opportunity” to do so. Evidence of “disposition” includes photographs of the adulterous spouse and the other man or woman kissing or engaging in other acts of affection.

Does my wife get half if she cheated on me? ›

An affair in itself is not reason enough for a judge to award you a bigger share of the pie when it comes to marital assets. However, if your spouse wastefully dissipated assets, a judge would likely give you a greater share to make up for the loss.

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