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These Are the Breaks: The True Cost of Divorce

Mar 1, 2012
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The damage from a complicated divorce doesn’t stop at the heart, it extends to the wallet. The cost to make a lawful split from your spouse is on average $20,000.

Generally speaking, the more emotional the divorce, the more expensive it will be. If you’ve been married for many years, you might have children, a house, vehicles and other assets that you’ll have to figure out what to do with.

An uncontested divorce

An uncontested divorce (when both parties have come to an agreement on how to divide assets, child custody, etc.) will cost less than an all-out battle.

In fact, if you’ve only been married a couple of years, have no kids and little to no assets, your divorce could cost as little as 25 bucks. Do-it-Yourself Divorce kits ( are $25 to $70 and include the forms you’ll need for the split.

Hiring an attorney

If you hire an attorney, you will pay an initial fee, called a retainer, which is anywhere from $500 to $10,000. The attorney’s hourly rate (from $75 to $450 an hour) is deducted from the retainer. The client then pays the attorney for any additional time spent on the case.

Keep in mind: many lawyers will charge you for talking to them on the phone, even for a minute or two.

Less-expensive options

In a mediated divorce, the couple discusses any financial and custodial issues. The mediator helps resolve any conflicts. At the end of the meeting, a memorandum of understanding is written. Both parties are advised to hire a lawyer to look over the memorandum, and it becomes the basis for the divorce decree. A mediated divorce costs around $5,000.

A collaborative law divorce runs in the $10,000 to $15,000 dollar range. The idea is that you and your spouse each hire a lawyer and sign an agreement to settle the divorce without litigation. These divorces are usually settled in as little as four meetings.

The bottom line is that divorce is costly – emotionally and financially. As painful as the process is, sitting down with your spouse to hash out a fair arrangement could save you thousands of dollars that will come in handy in jump starting your new life. 


Ariel Dreyer has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has appeared in The Boston Herald, Stymie and EDGE, among others. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Bennington College.


Ariel Dreyer has been writing professionally since 2005. She graduated from Bennington College in 2008 with a B.A. in Literature and has worked in finance for several environmental, social, and political campaigns. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Herald, EDGE Publications, and the Cape Codder, among others. Her essays have appeared in literary magazines Silo and Stymie, and her short story “Jamie and I” was included in a book published by Grand Central Publishing. Her flash fiction “The Rebellion” was featured on nthWord magazine’s blog. More of her creative work can be found at her website, Cartoons on Porcelain, and If at All Possible, which features her flash fiction and prose poetry. Ariel is presently based in Massachusetts.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on your taxes, your investments, the law or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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