Right after you and your spouse decide to separate, you might wonder just how much a divorce will cost. In fact, when you start the process, you probably have no idea what to expect in terms of court costs, attorney fees, or any of the other small or hidden costs of divorce.
As much as we wish we could tell you that divorces aren’t that expensive, it’s just not the truth. Unless you’re going through an uncontested and amicable divorce, there, unfortunately, aren’t many ways to reduce divorce costs. With that in mind, it’s important to do your research to be most prepared for what’s to come.
Here are the standard and hidden costs of divorce.
Just like when buying a home or a car, there are standard costs that you can’t get around, including hiring an attorney, filing fees, and mediation.
Hiring an Attorney
You might find a few people who try to go it alone when getting a divorce. If the separation is uncontested, you may be able to do it yourself for an affordable sum. If you don’t anticipate this being an amicable split, however, it’s probably in your best interest to hire an attorney.
Every lawyer will have a different set of rates, which makes it difficult to know just what to budget for when planning for the expenses of divorce. For example, you might be required to pay a retainer, which is similar to a down payment. When you give the attorney this sum of money upfront, they take withdrawals from it as they do the work. Other attorneys may have you pay hourly.
While the costs can feel like they just keep adding up, if you have any assets, children, or other property, getting an attorney can actually be the cheaper way to get through the process. The more the two of you disagree on how to split the marital assets, the more the attorney fees will increase.
Even if your attorney takes care of the process of filing your petition for divorce, you’ll likely have to pay this fee directly to the court. Each time you have to submit something, a new fee is assessed. Prices vary based on the type of divorce you file for and where you live, but the cost of simply filing divorce papers averages about $300 across the country. If you have children, you’ll likely pay a higher amount of filing fees because of the additional filings that will be needed.
Mediation is when you and your spouse meet with your attorneys and a third-party called a mediator. The mediator is not a judge and can’t make divorce decisions, but they can be successful in getting you and your spouse to decide all the details of the divorce. This process keeps you out of court, which controls costs (because court proceedings are pricey). Average sessions take a few hours and can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 an hour. Mediators’ fees vary based on experience and where you live.
Hidden Costs of Divorce
Now that we’ve covered the standard costs you can expect to have when you get a divorce, there are a few other situations where more fees may be involved that you may have not previously considered. Here are some hidden costs of divorce you may have been unaware of:
If your spouse was unfaithful, your attorney might request that you consider hiring a private investigator to get evidence of the infidelity. This is one task that you want to leave to the experts. Investigators know how to find this information in a discreet way that won’t get anyone in legal trouble. Because they are in the infidelity business, they know where to see this kind of activity and how to capture it for the courts.
Private investigators can charge anywhere from $40-$120 an hour. You might get a break on the rate if you hire them for a more significant number of hours upfront. Some investigators will require a down payment, which can range from $1,000 to $5,000 to get the process started. Any money they don’t bill will be refunded to you at the end of their services.
This is one cost that many couples don’t consider when going through the heat of the moment portions of the divorce. However, if you had a will together, you probably listed each other as the beneficiaries on your estate. When you get a divorce, you’ll want to change the name on these documents, which is going to result in both attorney and court costs.
Make a list of all of the financial documents and investments you have, including life insurance policies, and then talk to your attorney. You might be tempted to complete some of these items on your own, but if you have any doubt regarding how to do it correctly, pay the money it will cost for you to have some peace of mind. You don’t want to have to revisit these issues later.
The emotional and financial wounds left from a divorce can be deep and painful. The good news is that both heal with time. Use this guide to plan for the standard and hidden costs of divorce so that you won’t be surprised by any fees.