Detailed Findings & Methodology
Divorce often involves a complex legal process and can be difficult to navigate for couples without professional law experience. Approximately 4 in 5 divorcing couples hire lawyers, which are typically the largest expense in the divorce process. Nationwide, the average divorce attorney costs $250 per hour, with lawyers in major metropolitan areas charging as much as $500 an hour on average. Many of the states with the highest average divorce attorney costs have large metropolitan areas, such as California, New York, and New Jersey.
Depending on the number of assets and degree of complication involved in the marriage dissolution process, a divorce can take more than a year to complete, and couples can end up paying attorneys for dozens of hours of service. On average, attorney cost divorcing couples in the United States a total of $10,000 in service fees, roughly 80% of the overall cost of divorce of $12,700.
A number of factors — whether the couple has children, whether there are alimony or property division issues, whether the divorce is contested and goes to trial — make a divorce even costlier.
Divorces involving minor children is one of the most expensive categories of divorce. The average couple divorcing with children younger than 18 years-old spends $19,200 on the marriage dissolution process, nearly $7,000 more than divorces of couples without minor children. Divorces involving property cost $16,000 on average; cases involving alimony cost $18,000; and those that go to trial — which 75% of couples avoid as it can double the expense of the whole process — cost $22,500.
Divorce law varies greatly by state and can make the process far more expensive. States with residency requirements and minimum processing periods can prolong the divorce process, necessitating additional litigation and increased lawyer bills. One of the most expensive states to get divorced in, Rhode Island, has a minimum processing time of 510 days, the second longest of any state. In other expensive states to get divorced, such as Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts, residents must have lived in the state for at least a year before beginning the divorce process, making it difficult for couples new to the area to end their marriage.
Court fees can also pose a substantial expense to divorcing couples. The cost of filing for divorce ranges from $50 in Mississippi to $435 in California. Like most expenses associated with divorce, the number of complications involved in the marriage dissolution and whether the divorce is contested or not can significantly increase the amount of court fees involved in a divorce.
To determine the most (and least) expensive states to get a divorce, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on the average cost of a divorce from lawyer marketing service company Martindale Nolo Research’s 2015 divorce study. Court filing fees were obtained from various state and county court websites and are the most recent figures available. For states in which court filing fees vary by county, the court filing fee for the largest county in the state was used to represent the statewide figure. For Louisiana, the filing fee for Orleans Parish was used. The number of divorces per 1,000 residents for each state came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are for 2015.