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How Much Does Divorce Cost?

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The average cost of a Divorce ranges from $10,000 – $15,000 according to Thervo.com.  We don’t know who at Thervo has been getting a divorce, but in our experience, $15,000.00 is a very conservative estimate for a divorce that goes to court.  People with less than $15,000 in their bank account wind up spending $50,000 on their attorneys’ fees if they go to court.  Why?  It may seem like your divorce is costly, but if you think about what we divorce lawyers are trying to protect, our fees can pale in comparison. 

Calculate what you have on the line.  Look at your life, not just today, but your future value. For instance, you may be a teacher now and you’re 32 – but you have a pension.  Your pension cash value is $32,000 (we matched your age to make it simple) but the cash value of your pension when you retire can be enormous.  And, it can keep you afloat in retirement years.  You have a potentially $1-2 million asset to protect.  Your home is also an asset.  Your future earning power is an asset.  When you enter a divorce, you are not only fighting to get what you need now.  You and we are fighting for your whole life. 

It’s pretty simple, if you think about how the divorce “industry” is structured.  You take a person who is experiencing immediate panic, long-term anticipated loss of stability and put them in a system where they do not know the rules, laws or all the consequences.  You pair that person experiencing panic, loss and lack of knowledge with an expert who knows the laws, rules and consequences, for the low, low cost of a blank check.  

For an example of a consequence most people do not know:  At least 50% of non-lawyers seem to mention perjury as though it’s an offense that is ever prosecuted (spoiler alert:  Perjury is basically ignored).  People lie on the stand in court all the time.  Judges expect it.  Judges are tasked with evaluating everyone’s credibility.  If everyone who ever testified was prosecuted for perjury, the prisons would explode.  

Back to the blank check. Your relationship with your lawyer is conditioned on whether you can come up with continued payments.  If you cannot, your lawyer can generally leave you wherever you are in your case.  Right there on the side of the legal road you sit, maybe worse off than when you entered the system.  

The same lawyer may have encouraged you to fight for your life, your rights, your needs.  They may have even told you “collaborative process is not right for your case.”  Listen to the words, of course – but listen to the source.  The source of those words stands to benefit an amount which you both do not yet know.  You write the check, you start your case, and now your ex, their lawyer, the judge and experts are all making decisions to write checks you cannot cash anymore.  That’s why we tell every client about collaborative process.  

The average cost of divorce lawyers is $350-400 per hour and you are going to spend around $15,000 for an in-court litigated divorce if you settle early in the process.  Hiring a divorce lawyer to represent you, you are going to possibly spend between $300 – $650 each hour. The legal fees of a divorce lawyer may differ greatly by location (and possibly by postal code).  

No one ever describes the divorce process as being enjoyable; nor would any spouses say on the day they get married they plan on divorcing in the future.

In the real-world divorce does happen—for at least fifty percent of peoples’ 1st, 2nd, and 3rd marriages. When you find yourself in that unfortunate situation where you can see the future looking bleak, the cost of a knowledgeable divorce lawyer—one that is going to provide solid representation—is going to cost you around $350-400 or more each hour.

The total cost for divorces can be more than $100,000 if the divorce drags on for years.  We have had cases that literally lasted 2-5 years, or more.  This is subject to how many matters you’re wanting a judgment on and how determined both parties are on being victorious. The final amount is going to depend on the duration of the process (typically 9 to 11 months for a quick divorce if you litigate in court) and what is on the line.  We will always tell you about collaborative process because we think that being ethical means we give you all your options and you give informed consent.  

Informed consent means that we did not just mention in passing “oh, you can do collaborative process, but it’s really bad for this case and we don’t recommend it.”  Informed consent is to give you all options as though you were going into surgery and discuss each option as though it’s a reasonable possibility.  Because, at the beginning of a divorce, most options are still available.  Collaborative process means that you actually keep most options available as you go through divorce.  It’s always easier to go to litigation from collaborative process, for instance, than the reverse.  By the time you litigate for 6 months, trust us, no one is going to suggest that now is the time to find a more civil, peaceful way to resolve things. 

Divorce Lawyer Hourly Rates

Divorces can take a great deal of time and can get nasty, and the matters in each divorce are varies from couple to couple. Since the outcome of each divorce is determined by the defendants, the lawyers, and what’s on the line, it’s almost impossible to establish a standard overall cost. The more conflict you have, the more hours involved, and the more the divorce lawyer earns if you are paying hourly.  

If you can locate a lawyer providing representation for a flat-rate, you definitely need to do your due diligence and look into their firm, in addition to who the firm has represented in the past and any judgments on past cases. Look at the entire agreement, how many hours or what services are included in your flat rate.  

Divorce Lawyer’s Retainer Fees

When hiring a lawyer, you are going to generally have to pay for an advance fee or “retainer”—an upfront payment paid by you prior to any legal work being carried out. We are using the terms interchangeably here. The point of an advance fee, commonly called a retainer, is twofold:

  • It serves as a down-payment to secure the lawyer you decide on. It guarantees payment for when the whole process or a part of the process is finished.
  • A retainer or advance fee is going to cover the costs of future hours billed. Rather keeping your retainer and then charging you for the hours billed following that, a lot of lawyers are going to keep the retainer as their down-payment and put it towards the total bill when the whole process concludes.

Those retainer fees are based on a divorce lawyer’s hourly rate. The amount of the retainer is going to depend on the matters talked about in the initial consultation—specifically child custody and support, alimony or spousal maintenance, the splitting of property, and the splitting of debts.

Divorce Lawyer’s Flat-Rate Billing

In spite of the possibility of adding extras onto the cost, flat-rate billing, when done correctly and morally, could make things a lot easier for their client. But it is really hard to estimate what the total hours needed will be, especially for a litigated divorce.  

Occasionally, though, questionable law firms are going to use this to attract in clients in a weak position and take their cash without offering a quality service. A thorough online search for reviews should provide you the information you require to avoid these types of firms. But, we do see this a lot, and a lot of our clients come to us from a firm that offered “flat fee” but services sort of tapered off exactly when the case really turned on. 

Divorce Court Costs

Be wary that you not only need to pay the lawyer’s fees, but the additional court costs, in which typically cost more than a lawyer does each hour. The 2 parties of the divorce are going to occasionally divide these fees, but it’s not far-fetched to find yourself paying the full cost on your own.

The filing fee is typically the most costly fee you are going to pay to the courts when you’re filing for a divorce.

  • The cost is going to differ in each state, but usually it’s around $300, in which can hurt, given the circumstances.

Additional smaller fees might come up throughout the proceeding as well, but the filing fee is the initial court cost.

Divorce Mediation Cost

The cost of divorce meditation is going to depend on a number of factors. Whereas a lot of mediation sessions are billed hourly, some mediators like to bill per session. On average, a general mediation session is going to last about two hours. Clearly, this time-frame is going to depend on the issues of discussion and if any discord is involved.

An hourly rate for private meditation differs, usually costing anywhere from $100 to $1,000 each hour. Nevertheless, the final cost is going to subject to the considerations below. Usually, the final cost for divorce mediation is anywhere from $500 to $1,500+.

Consider Collaborative Process

A lot more important than what you’re paying the lawyer and the courts is hiring the correct lawyer. Back to the informed consent part. Do your research based on what is affordable for you. Find the right representation to safeguard what you have on the line.

Lawyers can be costly, this is true, but there is potentially a lot more to lose if you hire someone that does not have the resources or knowledge to represent you properly.

A Less Expensive Option is collaborative process.  If an attorney tells you that collaborative process is going to be “too expensive,” ask: 


1. How many collaborative process cases have you handled? Ask who they worked with as opposing counsel.  I want names, fact patterns.  I want to know this lawyer has handled more than one collaborative process case. There are some lawyers who don’t know what collaborative process is. I had one lawyer actually take a case with me into collaborative process before that same guy went back to court and litigated the same issues against the same people, and the judge allowed him to do that. Lawyers, and judges, may not know or understand Rule 67.1. Lawyers and judges aren’t the only ones doing bad work in an amazing process that’s relatively new to Arizona. 


2. How many collaborative process were more expensive than your litigation cases? Can you provide me total fees paid for each so I can compare?  


Remember: Lawyers who work in my field may read my website, so phrase the questions in a way that helps you use your own voice. You don’t want questions to a divorce lawyer to sound rehearsed.  

With collaborative process: 


1. Even if you can’t succeed in collaborative process, you win. I consider mediation and collaborative process to be the best discovery tools available.  I learn what’s important to the other side. I learn what’s not important.  I go to every collaborative process case prepared with a very tailored list of litigation counsel in case collaboration fails.  I know exactly which litigators won very difficult cases involving these same facts, and I’m prepared to send my client to the perfect litigation counsel. But, I always hope collaboration succeeds, and that is in the hands of the entire team. The reason is below. 


2. When you do succeed in collaboration, everyone in your life wins.  Your employer sees a more productive and healthy employee who doesn’t have to miss much work. Your kids see a happy, stable mom, a more carefree dad, and experience a unified front. Your kids as littles have less stress and acting out, and your teenage kids’ risks in divorce decrease. To succeed with collaborative law in Rule 67.1, you want to choose wisely for your entire collaborative process team. Your coach should have experience working with your lawyer.  Your lawyer and the other lawyer may not have worked together but with strong neutrals, you can shift from litigation or prelitigation mode to collaborative. 


3. The lawyer’s fidelity to you in collaborative process shifts from guarding you to maximizing your success in collaborative process. You need to use collaborative process to self-determine your best outcome. 

If you can convince your soon to be ex to use collaborative process with you outside of court, the divorce is most likely going to be less costly than the average $15,000.


The sooner this is done, the less it is going to cost and the faster the divorce is going to be finalized—in a lot of cases, in half the time. I see most collaborative process cases take about 5-6 months. If you’re dealing with a complicated spouse (personality disorder, mental health problems, or some other unique factor), it may take a year. Congratulations on the one year divorce, because in court, you would likely have lost two to three years of your life. The cost of your divorce would be triple if you go to court. Allowing a judge to decide on the outcome of who pays off which debts, where the children are going to live, and who gets the house may end up far worse for those involved when it might be possible to let a facilitated conversation with emotional support and financial transparency resolve all those matters in advance.

After you hire your lawyer, ask if they can recommend a knowledgeable mediator and begin there. The less the court is involved, the better it is for everyone.

Learn more about collaborative process here. 

Speak with our Divorce Attorney in Phoenix & Scottsdale, AZ

Moshier Law should be your choice when you need the best divorce attorney in Phoenix. An experienced family law attorney will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. We advocate for our clients, so they have the brightest future possible. Give us a call today at 480-999-0800 for a free consultation.  To find out how our divorce attorneys can help your matter, schedule your initial case evaluation today. We have a specialized network of Arizona attorneys, tax specialists, financial planners, estate planners, child specialists, real estate property appraisers, adult and child therapists and parenting coordinators who are here to help you when needed. Our Arizona divorce mediators are here to make your divorce less exhausting and will help keep you in control.

Divorce and Family Law

When a case demands litigation, you’ll have the benefit of 19 years of litigation experience in California and Arizona. But when a case demands collaborative law or mediation, we can meaningfully describe why collaborative law or mediation may or may not be your best option.

Moshier Law services all of Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Jennifer and her team of professionals seek to resolve Family Law cases efficiently with your goals in mind. Call us today! 480-999-0800 Schedule A Consultation
Jennifer Moshier Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Scottsdale Arizona
Jennifer Moshier, Scottsdale Divorce Lawyer
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