When you’re seeking a divorce, one of the most important questions you’ll want answered is this: “How much will my divorce cost?” In this article, we’ll discuss average costs for different types of divorce, as well as factors that can increase the cost of divorce.
Average Cost of Divorces in North Carolina
To determine the cost, first, we need to clarify that there are two types of divorces.
The first type happens when one party files a lawsuit to become unmarried after years of separation, by which point all issues have hopefully been resolved. This generally costs about:
- $400 -$750 in attorney’s fees
- $225 in filing costs ($235 if the Plaintiff wishes to resume a maiden name)
- Up to $30 in service costs
- $20 motions fee
Weaver, Bennett and Bland, P.A. charges a flat fee of $900, which includes the above fees and costs for an absolute divorce.
The second type of Divorce acknowledges that the public generically calls the process of resolving the issues that arise due to a breakup of the marriage a “divorce.”
In 2020, the average cost in the U.S of this type of divorce was around $12,900, according to a survey by Nolo, with the median cost hovering around $7,500. The difference between the average and median hints that there are a few extremely expensive divorces, while most will be somewhere in the five figures.
Many factors influence these cost averages so it’s almost impossible to determine how much a particular case will cost. Below, we’ll discuss some of the factors that contribute to the cost of a divorce and what you can do to keep these costs down.
What Factors Influence The Cost of Getting a Divorce?
Divorce costs can be broken down into three categories: filing fees, attorney fees, and paperwork fees.
In North Carolina, it will cost the person filing for a divorce, or the plaintiff, $225 to file the divorce documents.
In most cases, you’ll need a lawyer to help you complete your paperwork, negotiate with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, or even take the case to trial if necessary.
Attorney fees also cover costs associated with:
- Drafting and serving pleadings and other paperwork
- Phone calls, e-mails, and conferences with opposing attornies and you
- Conducting discovery
- Preparing for and conducting hearings and trials
Your lawyer’s total fee will depend on factors like:
- Whether you are trying to enter into a separation agreement or litigating the various issues
- What assets are at stake
- The attorney’s fee structure
Most attorneys charge by the hour and usually charge a retainer from which they deduct the fees for the time they spend working on your case.
In addition to the initial filing of the divorce Complaint, your attorney will need to periodically file additional paperwork. This may include a statement of assets, financial affidavits with supporting documentation, status orders, motions, and notices of hearing. The paperwork might result in filing fees or fees associated with serving the paperwork to the other party. Other paperwork fees include costs or charges for copies, long-distance phone calls, or accessing legal research engines.
Factors that Influence the Cost of Divorce
The number and nature of disputes that arise during your divorce influence the cost. More disputes, or more complex disputes, will drive up the cost because your attorney will have to spend more time trying to resolve them. For example, divorces that involve the division of a business, farmland, or commercial property, or other similar tough-to-value assets can be especially complicated.
Whether the parties are attempting to negotiate an agreement or are in the throes of litigation, they are trying to resolve the issues that come with separating. These issues can include:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- Division of marital property and debt
- Alimony or spousal support
When parties agree on these issues early on, there is less documentation preparation and resolution, meaning the costs are lower. On the other hand, if the parties are in litigation, that means more paperwork, more resolution, and more costs.
The 2020 Nolo survey revealed that an “uncontested divorce” costs an average of $4,100.
The same Nolo survey found that divorce cases that proceed to trial on at least two issues (such as child custody and property settlement) will cost an average of $23,000. This figure largely consists of legal fees, although there are some additional costs that may be incurred. For example, if you’re arguing over child custody or visitation, a guardian ad litem may be appointed to determine what is in your child’s best interest. If you’re arguing over the value of a property or a business, you may have to hire an appraiser and have a report prepared. In many instances, you will be required to go through the mediation process before the trial judge will set your case for trial. Only if the mediation is unsuccessful will you proceed to court.
Additional Costs of Divorce
In addition to the direct legal fees and associated expenses, there are a few “hidden” costs of divorce as well. These include:
Cashing Out or Dividing Investment Accounts
Paying any taxes or penalties that might be assessed for early retirement withdrawals. These are usually avoided by entering into a qualified domestic relations order, whereby the judge orders the split. The assets going to the other spouse are rolled over into a tax-deferred instrument in his or her name.
Packing and Moving Costs Plus Paying Rent or Mortage Cost
In most situations, one spouse ends up vacating the marital home. Whether you’re purchasing or renting your next home, this can be expensive. Not only may you need to come up with a security deposit and one months’ rent paid in advance, but you’ll usually be on the hook for utilities, parking fees, and other associated costs. And these don’t include the cost of replacing certain household items like dishes, utensils, and pots and pans.
If you’re the spouse staying behind in the marital home, you may find it necessary to hire a third party for jobs your spouse once did. For example, you may hire a lawn service, a cleaner, a babysitter or nanny, or someone else to help you keep up with the household until you can find your new groove.
Property Division Expenses
In some situations, dividing your assets can be simple—most often when you and your spouse have approximately the same amount saved for retirement and one of you can afford to (and is willing to) buy the other out of their share of home equity. But in many cases, invested assets may be subject to a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), which will allow a plan administrator to divide a single plan’s funds among two people. If it’s not properly managed, a QDRO can incur certain fees and early withdrawal penalties, so it’s crucial to navigate this process with an attorney’s help.
Though it’s all but impossible to predict how much a specific divorce will cost, there are many things you can do to keep the costs down. Having an experienced attorney can help you determine what’s most important to you—what you’re willing to fight for and what you’d be willing to let go of. If you are in need of a divorce attorney, contact us today.