Here's How Much a Divorce REALLY Costs

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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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Mary Cimino

Barely cost me a thing since my marriage was annulled but it cost him dearly because everything was in my name. Including the new truck that I sold for next to nothing.

momto... momtolittleg

As far as I know, a couple hundred bucks for the court documents.  But there were no kids or house involved, and the car I kept was paid for.  He paid the court fees and I signed on the line.  I took what I wanted from the house and left him the rest.  We were young.

nonmember avatar Samantha

Well thats one good reason not to be rash & marry before you KNOW hes the one. I cant imagine having to pay to break up.. Though someday i hope to marry, but i have to be absolutely sure before id make that kind of commitment, and im the type of person who sticks it out no matter what, id like to think the partner i choose will be as stubborn. Of course doing whats right for the kids comes before anything, but otherwise there isnt much that could convince me to give up on the man i loved enough to promise forever to.

Venae Venae


Spent appx $30,000 on my divorce from a guy who only makes $60,000/year.  Something's wrong w/that, I know.  But since mediation failed due to his very small alimony offer (I was stay home mom for majority of our 20+ year marriage), we had to go to court.  Have just spent another $8,000 on a new lawyer since he's taking me back to court - trying to take back child support given a year ago.  Yeah, he's a real winner - who I swear was nothing like this while we were married.  Knew him over 26 years and this lovely side of him is new.


I did end up w/20+ years of alimony. so there's that.


Where did I get the money?  Borrowed it from family - and then spent every penny I made from the sale of our home paying it back.  Apparently asshole's new past time is bankrupting me - funny how the new wife isn't holding his interest.....


mande... manderspanders

Samantha, that's VERY pretentious of you. Glad to know you're so perfect! Shit happens, people do change and not always for the better.

My.divorce was uncomplicated - no kids and mutual agreement on who got the house andbwhich vehicle. Cost $800 and 2 trips to court (one for temporary orders, one to finalize.)

Karma Grant

Less than $200 for attorney fee and court fees. Kids were involved, to be settled later but that became an overwhelming headache so we just work with each other best we can. We too were young (started as high school sweethearts) but had been married for 5 years,  and separated for a year (state requirement to divorce) before filing. Met someone during that mandated separation and we've been together (16yrs) ever since.


Manders, I don't think it's pretentious of her. I simply think she's naive. We all probably felt like she did in the beginning. But as you said, shit happens and people change.

mcsmom1 mcsmom1

The retainer for my divorce attorney was $10,000. We didn't go much over that, I had to pay him another $1,000 after the divorce was final. I have no idea what my exhusband paid his attorney, but I will assume it was quite a bit more than the $11K it cost me, since he was the one to file. We never even went to mediation or in front of a judge. I can't imagine what that would have cost!


I was naive 22 years ago and vowed that we would never divorce. I didn't think I would be divorced after 20 years of marriage. Sometimes we have to eat our words!

Jen Ziegler

$850 but i did not have children or anything of real value with my ex husband 

morga... morgani6904

$425 and no trips to court. I was young, and we had one child together. We were seperated for over two years, tho. It was also uncontested and I got primary and legal custody with visitation to be determined later. almost 5 years ago, and still no visitation. lol, he was a real piece of work.

nonmember avatar eee77

My divorce cost about $400, he left me and I filed. We have children and shared assets but he didn't file a response and therefore I got everything I had asked for by default. The default process seemed a little more challenging since I did everything by myself but it did go through after having to resubmit my final paperwork three different times because of errors.

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