Dissolution of marriage is a complicated legal procedure, regulated by state laws, specific county rules, and each couple's circumstances. All this makes each divorce case unique, and if the spouses understand the process well, they can manage their divorce expenses effectively.
Let's consider all the factors affecting the cost of divorce in more detail and figure out how to make the process less expensive without letting money-saving measures lead to unfavorable settlements.
Average Cost of Divorce
Divorce costs can include anything from court fees and service fees to solicitor fees, mediation or divorce consulting costs, online divorce services, and expenses payable to other experts, like appraisers, accountants, custody evaluators, etc.
However, which of these costs are associated with your particular divorce case will depend on your situation. The thing is that all divorce costs fall into two categories: lawyers (or other specialists) fees and court filing fees. And the latter is exclusively mandatory for all plaintiffs unless they are eligible for a fee waiver due to financial hardship.
A filing fee must be paid when the spouse initiating the case submits the divorce petition with the court. In Texas, this fee is about $300, varying slightly from county to county and depending on whether the spouses have kids. If the plaintiff cannot afford these fees, they can ask the court to waive it by completing an Affidavit of Inability to Pay Court Costs.
Other divorce costs are not mandatory, but dealing with the divorce can be extremely complicated without legal representation or aid.
Thus, the average total cost of divorce in Texas is about $15,000 if no children are involved and $23,000 if child-related issues must be resolved. Attorney fees typically make up the lion's share of this overall cost, so generally, the price of divorce is based on the principle: the simpler the case, the less you need to pay for a divorce.
In contested divorces, the lawyers usually bill hourly. Hence, the divorce expenses are directly proportional to the number of conflicts between the spouses and the time needed to resolve their disputes.
That is why, if you want to save money, you should ensure that you and your spouse are ready to cooperate towards mutual goals and seek an amicable divorce.
An uncontested divorce means that both parties agree to end the marriage and are willing to negotiate the final terms of their divorce out of court. They must clearly outline their arrangements concerning alimony, child custody and support, property division, debts, etc., by drafting a Settlement Agreement and submitting this contract for court approval.
Such an agreed divorce has many advantages:
- It involves less drama, minimizing the emotional strain, which is essential if the spouses have kids.
- Uncontested divorces take significantly less time than contested ones.
- Avoiding a trial is the best way to reduce divorce costs.
Most law firms offer affordable flat fees for an uncontested divorce, about $1,000-$1,500 per case, compared to $130-$430 per hour in traditional divorces. Besides, if you do not need legal advice or representation, you can use alternative dispute resolution methods (for example, mediation), counseling, online divorce, and other options instead of hiring a divorce lawyer.
Divorce Costs Without a Lawyer
While the spouses do not necessarily need a full-scope lawyer to guide them through an uncontested divorce, it is crucial to be prepared for the procedure, from ensuring a fair Settlement Agreement to ensuring proper paperwork.
The following non-adversarial divorce options may come in handy at different stages of the process:
- Divorce mediation
Mediation is a voluntary dispute resolution process in which a neutral third party (a mediator) assists the parties through negotiations and helps them form and finalize a Settlement Agreement without the intervention of a judge. In Texas, divorce mediation typically costs between $100 and $250 per session.
Depending on the disagreements between the spouses, mediation may require only one or several sessions. On average, divorce mediation is up to 80% cheaper than litigation.
Arbitration is another ADR method that allows settling differences out of court. However, unlike a mediator, the arbitrator is empowered to hear evidence, find facts, and make decisions in either spouse's favor.
Arbitration makes the best sense when confidentiality is a concern, and the parties would like to resolve their complex divorce issues without a public hearing. In Texas, average arbitration rates range between $1,000 to $3,000 per party for a full day.
- Unbundled legal services
Unbundling of legal services means that a lawyer can handle only some parts of the case or that a person can get legal aid on some specific issue without paying for the cost of full-scope services.
For example, if the spouses have children, they may need the help of a custody evaluation professional even if they have an amicable divorce. Custody evaluators typically charge from $500 to $3,500 per side in different Texas counties.
Among other experts who can help during divorce are real estate appraisers, accountants, insurance specialists, pension analysis consultants, and more.
How Much Is DIY Divorce
A DIY divorce is just what it sounds like: a person represents themselves in the marriage dissolution case without a lawyer (Pro Se), taking responsibility for all the stages of the process.
Although a do-it-yourself approach is not recommended in complex cases, Texas Family Law does not prohibit appearing Pro Se. So, if your divorce isn't messy, a DIY divorce may be the most cost-effective option for you.
However, paperwork is a crucial part of even a simple no-fault divorce. If there are some mistakes in the divorce forms, the court may reject them, delaying the case. Thus, to prepare for a DIY divorce and avoid its pitfalls, you should know family laws, civil procedure rules, and your local District Court requirements.
To get a cheap divorce and limit the expenses to court filing fees only, the spouses attempting a DIY divorce could obtain all the necessary blank forms and information about the filing process at Texas courts' self-help centers.
Since divorce paperwork can be complicated for people without a relevant background, the spouses can resort to online divorce to complete all the required papers quickly and without hassle.
Online divorce allows couples who don't want to grapple with paperwork independently to prepare their court forms online and reduce red tape.
Online divorce falls between a purely do-it-yourself divorce and a divorce with limited assistance. Even though online divorce services do not provide legal advice, they help select all the relevant divorce forms required in a particular divorce case and fill them out correctly, according to state and county requirements.
Typically, you have to complete an online questionnaire and provide your case details. Then, within two days after you've answered all the questions and completed the forms, the ready-to-sign documents will be available for downloading along with filing instructions.
Online divorce fees start from $139 per case in Texas, a favorable price, especially considering the time and effort saved by using such websites.
Contested Divorce Cost
Contested divorces tend to be much more expensive than amicable divorces.
Each divorce case starts with court filing fees. The most expensive part of a contested divorce is hiring an attorney. Full-scope attorneys typically guide their clients through the whole process of divorce, from start to finish, including navigating laws and civil procedure rules, interacting with the second party's lawyer, and representing their clients at the trial.
Therefore, the longer the divorce drags on and the more conflictual, the more expensive it's likely to be.
The overall cost of a contested divorce is hard to predict as it significantly varies on the circumstances of a particular case. For example, child custody or property division disputes can bring many additional costs to a divorce, as multiple professionals and expert witnesses other than attorneys can also be involved.
Divorce Lawyer Cost
A contested divorce is the most complicated way to dissolve the marriage because it involves spouses who cannot reach an agreement or don't even want to try. Thus, if you and your spouse file for a contested divorce, you will likely need a qualified family law attorney to represent your interests.
In Texas, most full-scope divorce lawyers charge an hourly rate of about $130-$430, depending on the county and the lawyer's experience and reputation. On average, divorce lawyers fees in Texas may reach about $11,000-$13,000.
Unfortunately, when your spouse is on the warpath, it is not the time to think of saving money, as the Final Divorce Order and your whole life after divorce are at stake.