How Much Does a Divorce Really Cost?

A top-of-mind question for most clients considering divorcing their spouse is– how much is this going to cost me? A number of factors can drastically influence the total cost of attorney’s fees in a divorce case, but we’ve attempted to provide estimates for typical scenarios that we regularly see in our practice in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to demystify this important subject.

  1. Mediation: Approximately $2,500- $5,000+ total (if each party pays half, this works out to be $1,250- $2,500 each). At Foundations Family Law, our Mediation retainer is $2,800, which covers 8 hours of the Mediator’s time on your case. This amount is sufficient to resolve many cases, with the higher end of the estimate representing cases with more complex asset division or special circumstances related to children.
  2. Uncontested Divorce: Approximately $3,000- $7,500+ per party (if each party retains an attorney)
  3. Contested Divorce without Trial: Approximately $7,500- $12,000+ per party
  4. Contested Divorce with “complicating factors” such as contested children’s issues/complex asset division: Approximately $10,000- $15,000+ per party
  5. One Day Trial: Additional $10,000+ per party (Add $5,000+ for each subsequent trial day)

The following is a list of common factors that may substantially impact/increase the above estimates:

  1. Sending and/or Responding to Discovery including Interrogatories (a fancy legal word for written questions that are answered under oath) and Requests for Production of Documents
  2. Depositions of you, your spouse, and/or other potential witnesses
  3. Multiple court appearances, including motions for temporary orders while the divorce litigation is ongoing. Emergency filings increase costs even more.
  4. Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) Investigations in which a neutral third-party is appointed by the court to investigate and make recommendations to the court on child custody issues.

A contested case with extensive discovery, multiple court appearances, and a GAL investigation can easily translate to $30,000, $40,000, or more in attorney’s fees (not including any GAL fees) before trial. The longer the case takes to be resolved and the more issues that are contested in the case also significantly increase costs.

Seeing these numbers can be startling. But it’s important to remember that the total cost of most divorces is spread out over a period of months to (sometimes) years. Most attorneys will request a retainer fee for a contested divorce somewhere in the range of $5,000 to $7,000 at the beginning of the case. At our firm, we offer payment plans for the initial retainer payment. 

Bottom line: Mediation and Uncontested Divorces are the most affordable ways to get divorced, so they are certainly worth exploring to see if your situation would be a good fit for these options. However, not all divorces can be settled amicably from the outset. If you file a contested divorce (which still could be settled later in the process), a realistic ballpark range for expected costs is somewhere in the realm of $10,000- $15,000.

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