4 Ways To Lower Divorce Costs

How to minimize several types of expenses related to divorce

A couple discusses their divorce.

Drazen Zigic / Getty Images

Divorce is often a time-consuming and complex process, so it can be difficult to estimate the cost.

A divorce can cost as little as a few hundred dollars per person if the couple can negotiate on their own, or it can cost much more for a contested divorce case, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of dollars. A survey by the legal site Nolo that found the median cost of attorney’s fees for a divorce with a lawyer in 2019 was $7,000, and the average was $11,300.

One of the main reasons divorce can be so expensive is because emotions are involved, Raiford Dalton Palmer, author of “I Just Want This Done” and managing shareholder of STG Divorce Law in Chicago, told The Balance in an email. “Emotions take over and people fight in divorce to exact punishment, get the other person’s attention,” Palmer said. “Divorce is the most expensive and flawed way to try to punish someone.”

The cost of divorce depends on a number of factors, from lawyers fees to the length of the process. Learn in more detail what’s included in divorce costs, and how you can take steps to lower the cost of divorce and start a new phase of life in financial health.

Key Takeaways

  • The emotions involved in a divorce can make it difficult to reach a swift resolution.
  • Mediation can help a couple settle their differences outside of court.
  • Staying organized with attorney communications can reduce your time with them and lower the cost.
  • Consider communicating with paralegals and assistants when possible, because they have lower rates than attorneys.
  • Some individuals can qualify to waive court fees, which can save money.

Try To Work Out The Details

You can avoid the costly expense of a court process if you and your partner can work through the details together in an uncontested divorce. This will make it an easier and cheaper process.

Avoiding a court process eliminates many steps that can be time-consuming and costly, such as frequent hearings and mandatory financial disclosures that can increase your divorce spending on attorney fees. “Time is money with lawyers, so anything that saves the attorneys’ time saves you money,” Palmer said.


When a couple can work out the majority of the details of their divorce on their own (such as who gets which car or which pieces of furniture), they can save a lot of time in their lawyers’ offices, Brett Boner, CDFA and financial advisor at Wealth Enhancement Group, told The Balance in an email.

“If you and your spouse are separating on amicable terms, then going through (a private negotiation) process will be a lot more affordable and reasonable,” Boner said. For couples who hire lawyers and fight for months or years, costs can be very significant. “Ironing things out without the attorneys has always been a great idea,” he said.

Consider Mediation

When you cannot resolve your differences in private, you still have an option to avoid the expensive court process: mediation.

Mediation is the use of a neutral third party (usually a lawyer) who has conflict resolution skills to assist with the negotiations through part or all of a divorce process. The mediator acts as a sort of referee by guiding the negotiations and ensuring that the couple stays on track with what they are negotiating.

The more a couple can work things out between themselves, the better, assuming each person understands their rights, responsibilities, and the facts, Palmer said. If they need help resolving details, mediation can help.

A mediator focuses on the facts and goals and does not get mired in emotional distractions that can easily arise during a divorce process. They can save time and money by helping each party more effectively understand the other's arguments.


Mediators do not give legal advice. Couples involved in mediation should still have an attorney to advise them on their legal rights and responsibilities, and aspects of the law.

Reduce the Costs of Your Divorce Lawyer

To cut back on the amount of work your divorce lawyer needs to do, consider communicating with paralegals and assistants when possible, Boner said. Their rates are often more affordable than attorney rates.

Staying very organized and being fully prepared when you talk with an attorney can also save time, which in turn saves money. Attorneys keep timesheets and charge for every communication such as phone calls, email responses, and meetings. The more organized you are, the less back-and-forth you’ll have with an attorney.


Palmer said his top tip for reducing the costs of attorney fees is to be fully honest with your attorney so there are no surprises. “Don’t hold back information,” he said. “We can’t help you if we don’t know the facts.”

Get Waivers on Fees if Possible

If you are struggling to afford expenses relating to your divorce, you may be able to qualify to waive court fees. However, these waivers won’t apply to attorney fees. Court fees vary from state to state, and may even vary from county to county, ranging from about $80 to $400. If you are handling a divorce without attorneys, saving the court fees expense can be significant.

“The court may give a waiver for filing fees in low-income situations, but there is no such thing as a waiver for legal fees in general,” Palmer said.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What's the cheapest a divorce can cost?

A divorce can cost as little as a few hundred dollars per person if the couple can negotiate on their own, or it can cost more than $100,000 for a contested case, according to Raiford Dalton Palmer, managing shareholder of STG Divorce Law in Chicago. Costs rise as the court process drags on, so couples have a lot of financial motivation for getting through a divorce quickly.

Why is divorce so expensive?

Ongoing lawyer and court fees are the main drivers of divorce expenses. The more complex your assets are, the more complicated things can get (like if you have retirement plans to divvy up). The more quickly a couple can come to terms about their divorce, the less they typically spend on these fees—especially lawyer fees. Divorce can be an emotional experience, which can often make it difficult to resolve quickly.

How much does a divorce lawyer cost?

How much a divorce lawyer costs is a big financial concern for many divorcing couples because of the significant expense. Attorney costs can vary but increase as more time is spent on the case. Newer attorneys may charge about $100 or more per hour, while more experienced attorneys may charge $300 or more per hour.

Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nolo. “How Much Will My Divorce Cost?

  2. District of Columbia Courts. “Filing Fees for the Family Court.”

  3. Jackson County, Mississippi. “Chancery Court Fees.”

Related Articles