“Economically, (divorce) is the single biggest financial transaction most people ever make.”
– Dallas divorce attorney Mike McCurley (D Magazine, Oct. 2011, p. 127)
Divorce is a costly endeavor on several fronts. First off, the divorce proceedings themselves can be quite expensive. You may need to hire lawyers or a mediator, pay court fees or the cost of special experts, and many states require couples to go through mandatory couple’s therapy before they can proceed with a divorce, which will also come out of your pocket. The average divorce will run up a tab of several thousand dollars at its cheapest, even without lawyers.
How much does it cost to get divorced?
Couples who hire lawyers to negotiate (and possibly litigate) the split can easily burn through $50,000 or more. Having a mediator can shave that tab to around $7,000. The single biggest factor that will determine how much divorce costs is how much fighting you and your spouse engage in.
If you keep it civil and keep the disputes to a minimum, you can manage it relatively cheaply. If you bicker and contest every little detail, expect all those little arguments to cost you $300 an hour – each.
Do-it-yourself divorce: The cheapest type of divorce
In some instances, it may be possible to perform a do-it-yourself or “simple” summary divorce, in which case the only costs are the court filing fees, which typically run around $200 to $300 dollars. However, having children usually disqualifies couples from filing for a summary divorce, and so parents should expect that the cheapest route they can take is going to cost them several thousand dollars. If you go through mediation and keep things simple and civilized, however, split two ways this can become much more manageable.
The other costs of divorce
What you pay in legal fees for divorce may actually be the smaller part of the cost equation. Divorce comes with financial costs in a number of other ways, too. Splitting property leaves you without many things you had before, a number of which will have to be replaced. Starting out on your own requires you get a new residence, new furniture, etc. And once you split up and go your own separate ways, each of you loses out on economies of scale that you benefited from during the marriage. It’s always more expensive to maintain two residences, two food pantries, two of each child’s room, two supplies of toys, two insurance policies, and so on – than it is to share these collectively. It’s no accident that in historical terms, marriage began as a financial transaction; a way to lower living costs and build wealth collectively. After a divorce, you begin to realize why.