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Divorce Cost

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California?

In California, the average cost of divorce is around $17,500, which is somewhat higher than the national average of around $15,000. You could pay only a $435 filing fee or litigate the divorce in court and spend thousands of dollars.

In other words, the cost of getting a divorce in Los Angeles will always depend on many factors, such as whether the divorce is contested, whether there are minor children, the complexity of assets, debts, property division, and other related issues.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California?

There is no way to know how exactly much you will spend during your California divorce process. However, understanding the main factors in calculating the cost can increase the chances of obtaining a reasonably accurate estimate. In addition, any divorce agreement aims to ensure an equitable distribution of a married couple's shared property and assets.

Getting divorced could be a very costly process. However, good planning and a solid strategy will help keep costs manageable.  As noted, the total amount the divorce will cost you depends on several things. 

In your case, one of the most critical factors that drive the costs up is the level of conflict.  Most divorce attorneys work hourly, when you pay for the time the attorney spends on your case. Therefore, reaching a settlement with your spouse will save you a lot of attorney fees in your divorce. 

There are several ways your divorce could proceed: uncontested divorce from the start, mediation or settlement process resulting in an uncontested divorce, or a contested divorce resulting in a trial. Our Los Angeles divorce lawyers will take a closer look below.

What is the Cost of an Uncontested Divorce from the Start of the Case?

Probably the most significant factor determining the cost of your divorce case is whether it's contested or uncontested.

Uncontested Divorce in California

Contested versus uncontested divorces mean whether you and your spouse require intervention from a California court to settle each family law matters, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and the division of marital property.

An uncontested divorce does not require court intervention and is faster and less expensive than contested divorces. To have an uncontested divorce, spouses must agree on every issue in their divorce.

A good lawyer can be costly, but sometimes it's necessary. For example, suppose your spouse is getting aggressive. In that case, you will need an expert in divorce law.

If you and your spouse can agree on all issues in your case before starting the divorce process, it would be the least expensive and the fastest way to get divorced. 

Make sure your agreement covers all issues in your case, such as child custody, child support, property division, spousal support, and anything else that might be in dispute.  In an uncontested divorce, the process becomes pretty simple:

  • Petition is filed with the court, and your spouse accepts service of the petition;
  • Your spouse files a response, or the case proceeds as a default with an agreement;
  • Both parties exchange their Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure (information about your income, expenses, and all assets and debts);
  • Divorce settlement agreement is prepared and submitted to the court as part of the divorce judgment.

Many attorneys will charge a flat rate for divorces where the parties have a complete agreement. 

At Furman & Zavatsky, an uncontested divorce usually costs between $3,000 and $10,000, depending on the complexity of the agreement and the volume of the financial disclosures.

Sometimes, an uncontested California divorce is eligible for a summary dissolution of marriage, which is the simplest means of filing a divorce in California. In summary dissolution, spouses file a joint petition and response for divorce. Further, all the divorce matters must be agreed upon, and the following criteria must be met:

  • The spouses must be married for less than five years;
  • There can be no minor children in the marriage;
  • There has to be limited assets and debts;
  • The spouses must sign a spousal support waiver.

What If There is No Agreement from the Start, But You Both Want to Settle?

If you and your spouse are serious about working out an agreement but need help figuring out the exact details of the contract and need help dividing your assets, your attorney can assist you in settling.

Your divorce would still start with filing the Petition and Response and both parties completing their Preliminary Declaration of Disclosures. After that, once all financial information has been exchanged, you might be ready to start working on a settlement.

Depending on the issues in your case, your settlement process could be done in different ways:

  • Settlement communication between attorneys: for example, your attorney would send a letter with a settlement proposal to your spouse's attorney, they would respond with a counteroffer, and such exchange would continue until all of the issues have been agreed upon.
  • Settlement conference: when you and your spouse, along with both attorneys, meet and review your case issues to work out an agreement. Such meetings could be done in person, usually at the office of one of the attorneys or online via zoom or another platform.
  • Mediation: you and your spouse jointly hire a professional mediator. The mediator is usually an experienced family law attorney or a retired family law judge.  Both sides present their settlement proposals to the mediator, and the mediator helps people reach an agreement.
  • Settlement conference in court: the judge could order the parties to attend a mandatory settlement conference with another judge. The settlement briefs of both parties would need to be submitted to the settlement judge before the court date, and the settlement conference takes place at the court.

For the settlement process to go smoothly and with minimal costs, both parties must cooperate, especially in providing all requested financial information.

Divorce Settlement in California

The biggest reason for delays in the settlement process is when one of the parties needs to provide the documents or information requested by the other spouse. 

Also, the cost will significantly increase if either spouse files any Requests for Orders (FL-300) with the court, such as temporary child custody orders or temporary child or spousal support. 

Suppose no temporary orders need to be obtained, and both sides cooperate in exchanging the necessary information. In that case, such a settlement process could typically cost $10,000 to $20,000 in attorney fees.  

There will be additional costs for mediation if you hire a private mediator.  You might also need to hire accountants if your case has complicated financial issues.

How Much Does a Contested Divorce Cost in Los Angeles?

Most cases would go through multiple settlement attempts before proceeding to trial. 

If you and your spouse are so far apart that no reasonable compromise could be reached, or if either party is being litigious and unreasonable, your divorce could become very expensive.  

As most divorce attorneys charge for the time they spend working on your case, every Request for Order (RFO), court hearing, discovery request or response, and so on will significantly increase your expenses. 

If your attorney's billing rate is $450/hour, below are some examples of how much various things might cost you:

  • You decided to file for temporary custody orders: it could generally take 3-10 hours to draft the RFO, depending on the complexity of the issues. Another 3 hours to review your spouse's response and prepare a reply declaration; plus, the time spent at court for the actual hearing may vary depending on how long the hearing will take and how long you will have to wait for your case to be called. If you have witnesses testifying and there is much evidence to present, your hearing could last several days. On average, for a request that is not overly complex and does not involve witnesses, the total time to prepare the Request for Order, prepare the Reply, and attend the hearing could be around 10-15 hours, which would equal $4,500 to $6,750 at the rate of $450/hour.
  • If discovery is needed, or if your spouse sent a discovery request to you, it could add several thousand to your case.
  • If any domestic violence allegations result in you or your spouse asking for a restraining order, that could easily add over $10,000 to your total.
  • If, after all settlement attempts, your case does proceed to trial, the average estimate that the trial will cost you at least $10,000 per day of trial, as it includes all of the work your attorney will need to prepare for trial.

What Are Other Costs That Could Be Incurred in A Divorce Case?

You might need to hire a forensic accountant if you have complicated financial issues. You might need to hire an expert to conduct business valuations.  If there are complicated custody issues, there could be a need for a private custody evaluation. 

If you or your spouse is not working up to their earning potential, there could be a need for a vocational examination. 

You might need to hire an expert to prepare a report and testify in court in many situations.  Most of the time, such experts will charge for evaluating and preparing any needed reports, plus additional fees for testifying in court.

Planning how to proceed with your divorce case and staying within your budget is essential.  You must evaluate everything you want to fight for and determine if what you are fighting for is worth the cost of the court battle. 

What Divorce Method Did You Choose?

Most people understand the basic principles of divorce mediation and litigation and know litigation is the most expensive as it will require that you hire a California divorce attorney.

Collaborative Divorce in California

When engaging in litigation, the length of your divorce proceedings will determine the overall expense.

While the monetary cost is high in litigating a divorce, it does not come close to the long-term emotional costs. In reality, you are only engaging in litigation because your spouse is uncooperative.

Collaborative Divorce 

Another expensive option is collaborative divorce, similar to mediation because you and your spouse negotiate with professional help. However, collaborative divorce costs more than divorce mediation because:

  • The help involves more than one professional;
  • You and your spouse will hire separate divorce lawyers; and
  • Have to pay your attorney's fees.

You will have divorce mental health professionals, forensic accountants, real estate agents, and child specialists to help you work out an agreement on child custody and parenting time.

While the expense of the collaborative method is high, it is often a crucial tool for parents with significant child custody disagreements who want to avoid an ugly custody battle.

The collaborative divorce process usually costs between $25,000 and $50,000, but many factors must be considered. This may or may not cost less than hiring your lawyer to litigate the issues in court.

Divorce Mediation 

Another expensive option is mediation, which uses mental health professionals or attorneys that charge their standard hourly rates for their services.

If your mediator is a mental health professional, they typically charge you between $100 and $250 per hour. If your mediator is a lawyer, their hourly fees are usually between $250 and $950.

The mediator will encourage spouses to make their divorce agreement and helps them keep moving negotiations positively. The cost of mediation will always depend on how many sessions are needed, the location, and the type of mediator chosen. Divorce mediation in Los Angeles will cost between $1500 and $10,000.

How Can a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer Help You?

Sometimes, spouses will decide not to use a divorce lawyer. While this is the least expensive way, filing for divorce without professional legal assistance is risky.

Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Often, spouses will make errors on their legal forms and fail to get their case past the family court clerk. Some spouses believe they have reached an initial agreement but later find out their spouse has a different view.

Other spouses who finalize their divorce will find out later that they made some life-changing bad financial decisions. Before taking the do-it-yourself approach, consult a Los Angeles divorce attorney to review your case and legal options.

A divorce lawyer in Los Angeles can cost between $250 and $950 per hour, but it will depend on their experience level and the complexity of your case.

If you would like to speak with a highly experienced divorce attorney at Furman & Zavatsky, call our law firm to learn how we can guide you through the divorce process and ensure you understand how divorce laws in California apply to your case.

We offer a free, confidential consultation where we can answer your questions about divorce litigation, collaborative divorce, mediation, or examine a proposed settlement between you and your spouses.

Call a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys, call our office today at 818-528-3471. Read our blog on how to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

Furman & Zavatsky
17200 Ventura Blvd., #105
Encino, CA 91316
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