13 Reasons Why Divorce Is So Expensive

Getting a divorce is stressful on its own, but the price that comes with it can take an even bigger emotional toll. The divorce cost highly depends on the services you decide to use and the state you file in. 

A typical divorce in the United States is about $12,780 with a lawyer. We break down this cost to an average of $11,300 in lawyer fees plus another $1,480 for additional lawyer expenses such as filing and court fees.

However, there are plenty of other reasons that can make divorce much more expensive than this.

Here are 13 reasons why divorce is so expensive. 

1. Disagreements

Lack of cooperation and disagreements can make the divorce process much more daunting and even more expensive.

Litigation is a popular course of action, where both spouses get divorce attorneys to figure out disagreements for them. The longer you drag out your divorce case with fighting, the more you’ll need to pay in attorney costs, as they charge hourly rates. 

There are two categories of divorce called uncontested and contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses can agree to the divorce terms, so there isn’t much legal action needed. 

A contested divorce is where it gets tricky and expensive because the divorce will need to go through the entire legal process to get to an agreement. This difficulty means more services to pay.

About five percent of divorce cases actually go to court, and if you’re in this percentage, your divorce cost can get significantly higher. If your divorce case goes to trial, the judge will make resolutions for the disagreements on your behalf. 

Due to this, you can expect to get slammed with court fees, which can increase your divorce price by hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Further Reading: Top 25 Reasons For Divorce

2. Filing Fees

To file for divorce, you’ll need to pay a state fee to the court. Filing fees can vary depending on which state and county you live in. However, you can usually expect to pay around a few hundred dollars.

Sometimes your fees may get lowered or waived if you don’t have children, have a low income, or cannot afford the fees along with your other bills. 

Each state has specific fee-waiving qualifications, so you’ll need to check either online to see if you qualify or talk to your lawyer. Some states might even allow you and your spouse to file together, which makes the filing fees much lower.

However, if your state offers this option, you can only file together if both spouses agree on their divorce terms.

Read More: How Do I Leave My Husband When I Have No Money?

3. Lawyer Fees

Hiring an attorney for your divorce will be the most sizable expense. If you hire a lawyer to help you in the divorce process, you could pay a few hundred dollars per hour for their time.

The average rate for a lawyer in the United States is about $270. Depending on the lawyer you choose, you might be paying up to $500 or more per hour.  

Your attorney cost can quickly get up to thousands of dollars by the end of the divorce. The cost of your lawyer is highly dependent on the following factors:

  • Where your lawyer’s office is: Lawyers who operate in large cities may have higher rates when compared to lawyers who conduct business in rural areas. 
  • How many years of experience your lawyer has: Similar to other services, you’ll need to pay more if your lawyer is highly-skilled and has been in the business for a while.
  • Your lawyer’s popularity: If your lawyer is in high demand, their hourly rates will typically be higher. 

Curious how to save on divorce costs? You can get a cheap and quick divorce under certain circumstances, here is how to do it.

4. Forensic Accountant Fees

One of the primary issues with divorce is figuring out assets. In some particularly messy divorces, spouses may try to hide assets. They may do this to prevent splitting it with their spouse.

A forensic accountant can investigate if a spouse is hiding any assets, like bank accounts, that need to come to the surface for the divorce. 

Not only can forensic accountants find hidden money, but they can help you figure out the value of the assets that you both have and verify other accounting information. From the asset evaluation, you can then figure out how to divide them amongst each other.

Similar to a lawyer, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars per hour for a forensic accountant.

5. Tax Accountant Fees

Taxes can be a significant problem for both spouses when they are in the process of becoming divorced. Tax accountants can aid with alimony and child custody calculations and determine if there are any tax issues that need attention.

Their overall purpose during a divorce is to ensure all financial aspects are in order.

There are also issues that the accountant can help you with post-divorce. Most married couples file their taxes together during tax season. So, when you have to start filing on your own, it can become overwhelming and pricey if you don’t do your tax forms correctly. 

Things like your single filing status, alimony payments, and child support payments can change your tax requirements significantly and affect your refunds. The tax accountant can help you get back on track and do your tax forms for you or with you so you can understand the changes. 

You can expect to pay a few hundred dollars to get help from a tax accountant, and they may offer you a flat-rate fee for filing your taxes.

6. Asset and Debt Division

Figuring out the division of your assets can take quite a bit of time, and it can be confusing while trying to figure it out on your own. Your lawyer and forensic accountant can help you with this, which will cost you more money as you take up more of their time. 

When dividing your assets, most of the time, they will get split 50/50. With that said, it may feel like you’re losing money because you’re no longer sharing the entire amount with someone else.

Splitting assets usually only applies to things you bought with your spouse, not things you individually purchased or received.

Generally, most asset transfers are not taxable, so you don’t need to worry about taxes with this division. However, you may want to check with your lawyer so they can give you a definite answer based on your marriage’s specific assets and state laws.

Along with splitting assets, you will also need to split your debts. So, you will now need to pay off debt on your own rather than together.

This splitting of debts can cost you quite a bit of money in the future, as you will only be relying on a singular income after divorce.

7. Professional Emotional Support

Many people opt for professional help during and after their divorce. This help can be for themselves and their children through some form of therapy. Divorce can be a traumatic experience for adults and children, especially if the relationship is a little toxic, to begin with.

Your life and your children’s lives will be much different than before due to the following:

  • Relocation
  • Co-parenting
  • Differences in income
  • And more

A divorce takes a severe mental toll on everyone, so finding a way to deal with your emotions and learning coping mechanisms is a great option. 

If you have health insurance, you may be able to get away with only paying a copay that’s usually less than $100. However, you would need to choose a therapist inside your insurance network to get this. 

For people without insurance, or people who choose a therapist outside of their insurance network, most therapist appointments in the United States cost $65 to $200 per session. These appointments can get pricey if multiple people in your family are going. 

Depending on your therapist’s evaluation, they may also prescribe medication or other therapies. Medication prices can range from a few dollars to a couple of hundred dollars. Prices rely heavily on your insurance.

Read More: Will I Regret Divorce? Here Are 7 Things To Consider

8. Child Custody

If you and your spouse cannot agree on child custody arrangements, you will most likely need to bring the case to court so a judge can determine arrangements for you. With a lawyer and court fees, this can cost you an additional few thousand dollars.

You may also need a child custody lawyer if your divorce lawyer doesn’t have expertise in this category.

During the child custody hearing, the judge will usually decide the following:

  • Who the child primarily gets to live with 
  • Who is in charge of the child’s major decisions like where they will go to school and where they will go to the doctor
  • Visitation day schedules for the non-primary parent

9. Switching Over to a Single Income

For a long time, you’ve probably relied on two incomes to cover bills and daily living expenses. When you begin the divorce process, you need to understand that your spending habits will probably need to change.

Most Americans make an average of about $51,480 a year. So, if both spouses were working while they were together, they would have had a household income of about $102,960.

This combined income is enough when both spouses live in the same household, but when you get divorced, there are now two separate households.

Each spouse now has bills and daily living expenses to pay with half of their previous household income. At least one spouse will probably have to downsize into a smaller home and may even need to find a different job. You’ll essentially have less money available to you.

If only one spouse was working while the marriage was still intact, then this would significantly impact the spouse that didn’t work, as this spouse would have nothing. At the very least, they’d need to find a home and a job very quickly to keep themselves afloat after the divorce is final.

10. Mediation Costs

Divorce mediation can help you get through the divorce process faster, but it does come with a hefty price tag. Mediation can range from $3,000 to $8,000, but you can usually split the cost between both spouses. 

Mediation involves meetings with a neutral third party person to help solve any disagreements with the divorce. Mediation can include figuring out asset divisions, child custody agreements, and other agreement issues that you may need help with in your divorce. 

Keep in mind that mediators are not allowed to offer any legal advice or create binding agreements, as they are not acting as legal attorneys. Their sole purpose is to help facilitate a conversation to help the spouses agree on their divorce terms. 

The point of hiring a mediator is to help prevent you from needing a lawyer, but you might still need one if you cannot agree on anything. Payments for a mediator and a lawyer combined will create a pricey bill of possibly over $10,000.

11. Relocation Costs

When the divorce occurs, or soon after the divorce, at least one spouse will need to move to start establishing a new household. Options for relocation include:

  • One spouse choosing to move out
  • Both spouses agreeing to sell the house and split to earnings for new homes
  • One spouse buying the other spouse out of the house

When a spouse begins the moving process, they’ll need to consider the following expenses:

  • The down payment for the house or apartment
  • Moving services
  • New furniture 
  • Storage facilities for belongings

If you plan to move within the state you’re already in; you can probably get away with paying about $80 to $100 an hour for movers to help you. For short moves, you could also consider truck rentals that start at rates of $19.95.

If you’re moving to another state that is over 100 miles away, you can expect to pay up to $5,000 for the whole move.

If you and your spouse won’t agree to split the furniture up between households, it can get pretty expensive in that category too. Most couches and other pieces of furniture will cost at least a few thousand dollars each. 

12. Alimony Payments

As mentioned above, switching over to a singular income after relying on two incomes can be detrimental to your bank account. Luckily, alimony exists for exactly this reason. In many households, spouses have differences in salary, and one spouse might make significantly more than the other. 

When divorce is in the works, the spouse who makes more is typically named the supporting spouse, while the other is a dependent spouse.

The supporting spouse will pay the dependent spouse payments to help them pay their bills and take care of daily living costs. Doing this allows income for both spouses to be somewhat equal.

These payments can get rather expensive for the supporting spouse, as they usually happen monthly and can continue for years. Alimony payments are a percentage of the supporting spouse’s salary, which will come out to thousands of dollars each year. 

Every state has a different alimony percentage. So, you’ll need to check your state percentages to estimate how much you or your spouse will receive in alimony.

13. Child Support Payments

If you have any children and you get a divorce, you will most likely need to pay child support payments to their primary caregiver. States require child support payments when there is unequal custody of the child.

Usually, whoever spends less time with the child will need to pay child support payments to the other parent.

Similar to alimony, one spouse will pay the other spouse monthly payments to help with expenses for the child or children. These payments are solely for the child and not the spouse. Spouses can use the child support payments for:

  • Clothing for the child
  • Transportation expenses for the child
  • Household expenses that involve the child, like food
  • Healthcare for the child
  • Schooling and school supplies

When it comes to the amount of the payments, this varies by state and sometimes county. Each area has its own set of guidelines and laws that determine how much the secondary parent needs to pay. 

The age limit for child support also varies by state. Most states require child support payments until the child is 18. Others, like New York, may require these payments until the child is 21. Your lawyer will help you determine which age your state uses.


In the United States, the divorce rate is about 2.3 per 1,000 people. For these people, divorce can be a confusing, overwhelming, and wallet-denting process. The primary reason for this is the services you may need to help you through the legal process.

However, you can reduce some of the overall cost by filing for divorce on your own or by using online divorce services.

Keep these reasons as to why divorce is so expensive in mind as you go through the divorce process. Depending on your personal situation, you may be able to opt-out of some of the services listed, reducing some of the overall financial stress.

Try to work on divorce terms together, and then look for help if you cannot agree.