California Divorce Costs
Your California divorce costs will depend on whether you file for default, uncontested, or a contested divorce. California default divorce costs are usually under $2,000. Uncontested divorce costs are between $1,000 to $7,000. Contested divorce costs range between $8,000 to $20,000. Read on to learn more.
Default, Uncontested & Contested Divorce Costs Overview
Default divorce occurs when the respondent fails to file a response to the divorce petition. Respondents have 30 days to file a petition with the court upon being served with the petition and court summons by the petitioner. Since one party is involved in the divorce process, the divorce costs will be less compared to an uncontested or contested divorce. Aside from paying the court filing fee which is addressed below, you can expect to pay no more than $1,500 in attorney fees. You can hire a divorce attorney to prepare your divorce forms and finalize your default judgment.
An uncontested divorce means there are no divorce issues in dispute between the couple. For example, the couple is in agreement on how to divide community assets and debts, established a child custody and support plan, and have settled any issues pertaining to retirement and spousal support. The petitioner and respondent work with their attorneys to draft a marital settlement agreement that is incorporated into the final judgment. Depending on the extent of negotiations, uncontested divorce costs can range from $1,500 to $5,000. The more issues the couple has settled up front will significantly reduce the costs of divorce fees.
A contested divorce means the couple has one or more divorce issues in dispute that must be resolved by the judge. For example, the couple may be in dispute over child custody or the payment of spousal support. There is ususally extensive discovery performed and expert witness consulting in such cases that result in an increase in divorce costs. Contested divorce costs can be as high as $20,000 in San Diego, San Francisco, and Orange County.
Check out our California Divorce Attorney Fee Calculator to estimate how much money you may spend.
How Much Does a California Divorce Cost?
Divorce Court Filing Fees
The petitioner must pay a filing fee to the local superior court upon filling the petition for dissolution and court summons. The respondent must also pay the court filing fee if he/she files a response. You can expect to pay anywhere from $435 to $450. The amount you pay will depend on your county filing fees. Both parties can expect to pay close to $900 in court filing fees.
California Attorney Fees
Most California divorce attorney hourly fees range between $275 to $450 per hour. As such, if an attorney works 40 hours on your divorce (conducting discovery, interviewing witnesses, preparing motions and other court documents), you can expext to spend $11,000 on the low end. Ask your attorney to provide a list of fees estimating your expenses during your initial consultation. This will give you an idea of the costs involved with your divorce. Always err on the side of caution by applying a 5% mark-up to the fee to estimate overage costs.
California Divorce Expert Fees
Divorce costs will increase depending on the number of experts consulted and the extent of discovery performed. For example, if you have a child custody dispute, you may need to hire a counselor or psychologist to consult on the best interest of the child. If real property is involved, you may need to retain a real estate agent to provide comparable pricing for the sale of your home. Issuing subpoenas for bank or phone records and conducting depositions will also increase divorce costs. Most expert charge upwards of $100 per hour.
Divorce attorneys also charge a higher hourly rate for trial. Find out your attorney’s trial costs before pursuing litigation. These costs are typically associated with contested divorces. That is why it is so important to try and resolve as many issues as possible with your spouse outside of court.
Flat Fee Divorce Costs
We highly recommend you consider flat fee divorce costs. Flat fee costs allows you to pay one lump sum amount for an attorney to complete your entire divorce. At San Diego Esquire, our flat fee uncontested divorce rate starts at $1,500. The amount may increase depending on the complexity of the uncontested divorce. For example, if child custody, child support, spousal support, real estate, and many retirement accounts are part of the divorce, our clients may pay a slightly higher amount.
Flat fee divorce costs allow you to control the amount of money you spend on your divorce and avoid any financial surprises along the way.
How to Lower Your California Divorce Costs
The best way to lower your California divorce costs is to resolve all divorce issues with your spouse before starting the divorce process. If you and your spouse are not on speaking terms, consider using a mediator to resolve your issues. A third party mediator can help foster communciation between you and your spouse.
How to Avoid Going Into Debt During a California Divorce
SD Esquire Flat Fee Divorce Service
SD Esquire provides flat fee uncontested divorce services. We will prepare the legal documents you need to file for and complete your divorce. This includes preparing and filling your divorce petition, completing your financial disclsoures, and drafting your marital settlement agreement (MSA). Our uncontested flat fee divorce service starts at $1500 for standard divorce (you are responsible for paying court filling fees). The fee also includes service of process fees. You can make installment payments as your case progresses. It costs $500 to start your matter. Sign up today to get started.