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How Much Does a Divorce Cost
How Much Does a Divorce Cost

A recent visitor to this site found it by searching on the question “how much does a divorce cost?”  This person probably meant “how much will the legal fees be?”  Legal fees will vary with how complex the case is and what the parties can settle by agreement.   This goes for all divorces, whether they happen in Virginia or one of the other states.  

If the parties were only together for a few months, have no children, and did not buy much together, the legal fees can be under a thousand dollars.  If the parties have children, lots of property and one of them is seeking spousal support, the attorney’s fees can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars.  Even if the case is complex, however, the legal fees can be quite reasonable if the parties are able to agree on every issue.

Lawyers classify divorces as “contested” or “uncontested.”  An uncontested divorce is one where the parties have agreed on what to do about all of the issues that the court would have to decide.  These include who the children will live with, how much will they see the other parent, what support will be paid, what happens to the marital home, and how will the retirement savings be split.  If there is agreement on all of these points, the cost of writing a separation agreement is not going to be that high.  

Once the parties have a written agreement, the court process is a formality that can be completed without anyone going to the courthouse.  The court requires a filing fee of between $90 and $100 depending on where the case is filed.  The lawyer will need to prepare a final decree for the judge to sign plus two affidavits and some standard forms.  The cost for these services should not exceed a thousand dollars.  .  

In a contested divorce, some or all of the key questions have to be decided by the judge because the parties cannot agree about them.   The question that most often has to be fought out in the courtroom is spousal support.  The stakes for the parties are high and the outcome is uncertain because there is no formula.   After spousal support, child custody seems to be the issue that is most often litigated.   

When it comes to dividing the property, the issue usually goes to trial because the parties disagree whether the asset is marital property at all or differ as to what it is worth.  These questions can get quite complicated and require expert testimony which can be very costly.  When marital and separate property have been mingled together, the job of untangling them can get very expensive.

There is another cost of a divorce and that is the loss of wealth each spouse experiences when the property is divided and they stop sharing their combined income.  Unless they are wealthy, the spouses will not be able to enjoy the same lifestyle they had when they were together.    Sometimes if one spouse was a spendthrift their partner may experience an improvement in their economic situation because they are no longer paying the irresponsible spouse’s bills.  More often, however, both parties will have to trim their spending because there isn’t enough money to go around.

About the Author

Robert Jeffries
Robert Jeffries