Divorce tends to be a very expensive venture. Not only do you often times lose significant assets (house, investments, etc…), but you are also faced with the burden of paying court and / or attorney fees.
Today, I will discuss the 5 major divorce options and the expected costs of each. Not only do I discuss the cost of divorce in Missouri, but I will also give you an idea of the cost no matter where you live. Hopefully divorce is not in your future, but if it is, I think you’ll find this guide helpful.
CONTESTED VS UNCONTESTED DIVORCES
When you boil it all the way down, there are essentially two types of divorces: Contested and Uncontested
Contested divorces are those in which the spouses cannot agree on how to split the investments, house, debt, and other assets. Additionally, there are disagreements on how to handle child custody, child support, child visitation, and alimony.
Types of Contested Divorces
Since the divorce is contested and agreement cannot be reached, you will need to seek outside help to resolve your differences. As such, there are several ways in which you can proceed from here:
Lawyer-Driven Divorce is an option where each spouse hires their own lawyer, which right out of the gate can be very expensive. Each lawyer is fighting to get the very best deal for their client.
With this option, you get legal advice from an attorney you can help you to understand your rights.
Obviously the cost can vary depending on many different factors such as the length of time it takes both sides to come to agreement, the lawyer’s hourly rate, complexity of the situation (i.e. children, multiple assets, etc…), where you live, and many other things.
According to Nolo, the national average cost for divorce is around $15K when you hire an attorney.
If both spouses still cannot come to an agreement, even though they have their own lawyer, the case will have to go to trial, which can become very expensive. Again, according to Nolo, the national average cost for cases that go to trial is around $20K. But of course this number could be much higher depending on how long the trial takes.
Is a Lawyer-Driven Divorce Right for You?
If you want to make sure that you are not taken advantage of and want the guidance of an attorney who knows the laws and what you’re entitled to, then you would choose a Lawyer-Driven Divorce.
Other situations that would cause you to hire a lawyer would be domestic violence, child abuse, restraining orders, etc… Under these types of situations, you need to maintain separation from your spouse for legal and / or personal reasons and as a result, it will be necessary to have your lawyer handle all negotiations with your spouse and their attorney.
Additionally, if one spouse hires an attorney, then it will likely be very wise for the other spouse to hire an attorney as well instead of trying to represent themselves. There is a famous quote that says, “He who represents himself in court, has a fool for a client”. There are too many complexities for you to try to handle the case on your own.
Divorce Mediation is an option where couples voluntarily allow a neutral 3rd party (mediator) to facilitate negotiations in an effort that is fair to both spouses.
With this option, the couple isn’t technically receiving legal advice (unless an attorney is involved). Instead, they are dealing with a mediator who is trained to negotiate any issues that you don’t agree on. Additionally, divorce mediators will often times provide and prepare all necessary paperwork for you, which is a valuable service if you aren’t sure what you need or how to fill it out.
In many cases, the mediator is not even an attorney, which is one reason the cost of this option is cheaper than the other two options listed. According to Legal Zoom, the cost of Divorce Mediation ranges from $3K to $9K.
Is Divorce Mediation Right for You?
Divorce Mediation would be a good option for you if your situation is relatively complex, you can’t come to an agreement on issues such as child support, alimony, custody, division of assets/debt, etc…, and you don’t have anything preventing you from being around your spouse (i.e. restraining order).
Or perhaps you and your spouse agree on the issues, but you are looking for someone to guide the process for you. In this instance Divorce Mediation may be a good option.
Additionally, one would choose this option if they needed a more budget-friendly solution than that provided by the Lawyer-Driven or Collaborative Divorce options.
Collaborative Divorce is an option where couples feel they can still work out matters in a cordial way, but yet they still want legal representation. It is essentially a combination of the Lawyer-Driven and Divorce Mediation options.
With this option, all parties (spouses, lawyers, outside experts, etc…) come to the negotiation table at the same time to work out matters in an agreeable fashion. It is intended to be non-contentious; however, if agreement cannot be reached, the divorce may end up in court, which would likely be very expensive.
Because of all the people involved in this process, the cost tends to be very high. Additionally, the cost of a Collaborative Divorce varies depending on how many meetings are required, the hourly rate of attorneys, and how quickly the spouses come to agreement. According to Equitable Mediation, Collaborative Divorce can cost $25K to $50K.
It’s important to understand, though, that if the Collaborative Divorce option is chosen and couples still can’t come to an agreement, then new attorneys must be hired and the divorce process must be started all over again. And this would significantly add to the overall cost.
Is Collaborative Divorce Right for You?
A Collaborative Divorce would be a good option for you if your situation is complex, you can’t come to an agreement on your own regarding issues such as child support, alimony, custody, division of assets/debt, etc…, and you don’t have anything preventing you from being around your spouse (i.e. restraining order).
Additionally, by choosing this option, you are effectively stating that you want legal representation and that you want all parties at the negotiation table at the same time. Furthermore, you must be in agreement to handle matters in a peaceful way. This (hopefully) allows the marriage to end on good terms, especially if there are children.
Uncontested divorces are those in which the spouses agree on most, if not all, of the relevant financial and childcare issues.
This is by far the most simple and least expensive type of divorce.
Although it is somewhat implied that negotiations for uncontested divorces are essentially handled by the spouses themselves, outside help can still be obtained. Spouses can still choose to engage in the Lawyer-Driven, Divorce Mediation, or Collaborative Divorce options. While it is likely rare that spouses of uncontested divorces do this, it is still an option. After all, you “don’t know what you don’t know”, so you may find that adding representation in an uncontested divorce will be helpful.
Types of Uncontested Divorces
1. DIY Divorce
With this option, the spouses are responsible for discussing all of the relevant issues on their own. Additionally, they will have to determine which paperwork is needed, fill it out themselves, and file it with the divorce court.
Essentially, you are responsible for figuring out everything on your own!
Since no outside parties are involved (unless you have an attorney review your paperwork and/or file it for you), your costs should be relatively minimal. Equitable Mediation estimates that your costs would range from $300 to $1,500.
In some cases you may find that you can get the divorce paperwork for free from your court or state’s website.
Is DIY Divorce Right for You?
Remember, this option is only available for spouses who get along and agree on all financial and childcare issues. If that sounds like you and you’re up for researching everything on your own and you wish to accomplish your divorce with as little cost as possible, then a DIY Divorce may be right for you.
This option is very similar to the DIY Option. The only difference is that the spouse(s) will go to a website that will guide them through all the necessary issues and questions. The website will then prepare all of the paperwork depending on how the questions are answered. You will still likely be required to file the paperwork unless the website offers that as an additional service.
For this option, the cost for the online divorce is the same regardless of where you live. However, your costs to file the paperwork will vary depending upon your location.
Is Online Divorce Right for You?
If the thought of a DIY Divorce seems overwhelming to you because you aren’t really sure what paperwork you need or the relevant issues that need to be discussed, then you’ll appreciate the guidance that an Online Divorce provides for you.
HOW MUCH DOES A DIVORCE COST IN MISSOURI?
As you can see above, the costs vary significantly depending upon which type of divorce you engage in.
If you and your spouse are amicable, and you decide to handle your divorce on your own, then essentially you would be looking at a cost of around $500 or less, according to Masterson Law in Missouri. This would cover filing fees, sheriff costs, any necessary attorney fees, and divorce paper costs.
The prices vary depending on which company you go with. For example, Complete Case has an option that costs $299. Legal Zoom has an option powered by WeVorce that costs $949. Yet another company that I ran across called 3 Step Divorce has an option that costs $299.
According to Lawyers.com, the average cost of a divorce in Missouri with an attorney involved is $13,500. This includes attorney fees, paralegal costs, appraisals, child custody experts, any other outside experts, filing fees, and document fees.
Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce
I was unable to find any information on average costs in Missouri for these specific types of divorces. However, the above information under the respective sections should give you a good idea of the costs if you decide to go with one of these divorce options.
If at all possible, aim for an Uncontested Divorce as this is likely the quickest, cheapest, and least stressful option. Try your best to come to an agreement on all issues (investments, house, child custody, child support, child visitation, alimony, other assets, etc…).
However, if that’s not possible (due to abuse, restraining orders, complexity, relationship, feeling of not getting your fair share, or whatever the case may be), or if you simply want mediation or legal representation, then a Contested Divorce will likely be your best option.
WHAT TO DO AFTER DIVORCE?
Getting divorced is a very stressful experience that leaves people feeling completely unorganized, overwhelmed, and stressed out. It’s completely normal to feel this way.
Often times we discover that one spouse typically handled the finances, thereby leaving the other spouse inadequately prepared after divorce.
We’ve seen the frustration and fear that this situation causes.
Have you been through a divorce before? What advice do you have for those who are currently going through a divorce? Please share any thoughts, comments, or questions below.
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Brad E.S. Tinnon
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™