Here's How Much a Divorce REALLY Costs

When you bring the "D" word into your conversations with your spouse regularly, and you know it's only a matter of time before you end your marriage, you are probably wondering what a divorce actually costs. We always hear about multi-billion dollar divorce trials and settlements, but what about the rest of us? What if your net worth includes "gummy bears"?

The answer, as it turns out, is that the cost of divorce varies tremendously from couple to couple and from state to state.


I'm in the middle of my own split, and my ex and I have agreed to a mediation, which is a far cheaper way to go about divorcing than with dueling lawyers and expensive court battles. This means that my husband and I will come together and work out the settlement of the divorce - including custody of everything from Amex points to the kids - with a neutral third party.

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This type of divorce, of course, isn't always an option. Especially if two spouses can't be in the same room without bursting into flames. But it is going to be a lot more budget-friendly than going the other, traditional route. A mediated divorce means that a neutral third party will go through the major decisions with us, right down to cost. Speaking of which, a mediated divorce can cost between $1,000 and $7,000.

Compare that with a more conventional divorce, which involves each partner retaining their own lawyer (in Chicago, where I live, it's about $5,000 upfront to get a divorce lawyer - and that's not even a stupendous one) and then preparing to battle it out over the items from the marriage. That's TEN GRAND to begin with, and I hear they don't take IOUs.

If you want to go the normal, litigated, route for a divorce, you do want the very best on your side, so it's important that you find someone you can afford AND who will fight to get you what you want. It isn't a sure thing, getting exactly what you want from a divorce lawyer, but it's easier if there's a lot to divide up, or if you and your partner are fighting so much that working it out through mediation won't happen this century.

It's really up to you how much you spend on your divorce, but I will say this: I feel fortunate that we're not going to go the lawyer route. It's saving us money, time, stress, and energy that could better be spent rebuilding new lives.

Which, in the end, is what the dissolution of a marriage means.

Have you been divorced? How much did it cost?

Image via banjo d/Flickr

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