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Divorce is an emotional and financially arduous process, especially if attorneys are involved. Divorce costs depend on several factors, including the approach to separation, financial situation, mutual agreement, asset complexities, children, and litigation. The type of divorce is a significant determining factor when it comes to expense considering uncontested divorces tend to cost much less compared to contested ones. The reason is uncontested ones are not prolonged as there is mutual agreement. Some do not require legal counsel as they may entail a do-it-yourself process, which costs even less. Contested divorces are more expensive due to the litigation costs and the lack of control as the judge rules on how resources are split. State-specific divorce laws also vary according to state, affecting the overall cost.
When spouses implement an uncontested divorce, the main expenditure is the filing fee for the divorce petition. The fee is not fixed and varies depending on the state. In California, the Divorce filing fee is $435, while in Maine, the same fee is $120. Most state divorce filing fees range between these two figures. There are other smaller fees the petitioners may have to pay, though. For one, if the person is not personally serving the divorce petition, they will have to hire a professional server for the delivery. Filing supporting documentation for the case, as well as a copy of the divorce decree, may also incur an expense.
Some states do allow spouses to file petitions with their spouses for an uncontested divorce jointly. That means it is possible to split the filing fee. To that end, some have found the easiest solution is an online service as long as the parties have agreed on support, custody, and the division of obligations. These platforms require the couple to answer questions on their scenario and will generate the necessary forms to complete. The higher-end services may go further to file the forms on the petitioners' behalf, but this is at a higher cost. Others will issue filing instructions and guarantee that the state court will accept the completed forms. Service costs for these services, though, range from $150 to $600 as a flat fee. Others charge a monthly subscription fee for use.
Some uncontested and all contested divorces entail legal counsel, which means hiring a lawyer to assist with the process. The associated costs increase sharply due to the attorney charges added to the filing fees. Divorce lawyer costs vary extensively depending on location factors, complexity, and the lawyer's rate. Both spouses are billed per service provided, even if it is an email, court appearance, or even a phone call. Typically, a divorce lawyer charges between $225 and $310 an hour, though rates may be lower or higher. If the clients are dealing with a large firm and the divorce has minimal assets, with no children, junior associates and paralegals may support them. These professionals may charge less per hour because they have limited experience or reputation.
It is possible to range a flat fee with divorce lawyers as well. That means agreeing on a package with the lawyers regardless of the hours spent on the case. These may not include filing or documentation not related to the attorney services. The package could be as high as $10,000 or more, depending on the case's particulars. It may be cheaper than hiring lawyers on an hourly basis.
There are alternative ways to pay for these services aside from the hourly billing approach. Payments may be arranged according to monthly bills or prior arranged periodic installments. These alternative fee arrangements benefit the spouses going through a divorce because there is more control concerning legal fees. Some attorneys also offer rates with minimums and maximums, which means it is possible to go ahead knowing the bill's scope at the end of any period.
Aside from the legal fees of the divorce, there are other expenses that each spouse needs to consider. During divorce, health and life insurance are affected by the split. IRAs, phone plans, Wi-Fi, and other subscription services will also change, so they have to be accounted for by the partners. Spouses will have to consider property division, alimony, and child care. The judge might have ruled for equitable distribution if it was a contested divorce. In cases like a home, one party may be asked to buy out the other person's share or accept money so they can retain the house.
Alimony should also be considered as these are included in the judgment. The amount to be paid depends on the state and the situation. That is the spouses, standard of living, and any contribution one spouse has made to the other's education or career. Child support is a significant after-the-fact cost in divorces. There are no gender requirements to pay support for child care, but it depends on their educational needs at the time of the divorce or in the future. It also considers the income of both parties or any health requirements the child has at the time.
In pro bono arrangements, the lawyer one gets gives legal counsel at zero or a low expense. Such privileges are only open to particular categories of people, such as single mothers or those involving domestic abuse from the other partner. In critical situations, firms may take it upon themselves to represent the disadvantaged individual free of charge or at a mitigated cost. However, these services are not available to couples seeking divorce on the terms of irreconcilable differences, considering they likely do not need extra financial assistance.
Divorce costs vary widely depending on the approach that is taken. Uncontested divorces are the more favorable option considering they only rely on filing fees and document submission. The contested divorces, though, cost more due to the attorney fees, which are paid by the hour, resulting in thousands of dollars. Even after the divorce, there are costs to consider for each spouse. These include alimony, child support, and property division expenses. Spouses must also prepare for insurance changes, individual taxation, and monthly subscriptions.