Cost of Divorce in California
- Average price for California divorce
- Key facts about cost of divorce in California
- Your relationship can impact your fee
- How much does it cost to file for divorce?
- How much does a divorce lawyer cost?
- How can I save money on a divorce?
- Save money on your California divorce
It's difficult to make sweeping statements about divorce costs in California. Divorces, just like families, are unique, and each one is a little different.
An average California divorce costs about $14,000. But your cost can vary according to the following factors:
- Difficulty: A large and complex estate will require more expertise to untangle fairly.
- Acrimony: Couples who fight over every step require more outside help (lawyer, mediator, CDFA), raising costs.
- Personnel: Experienced lawyers cost more than their newer counterparts.
Working closely with your soon-to-be-former partner is one way to cut costs. By collaborating on this final contract, you could ensure that money stays in your family and out of a lawyer’s account.
What’s the average price for a California divorce?
Many people want to know how much they'll spend on a divorce in California before they file for divorce. Know that your case could cost much more (or less) than the amount others pay. Divorces are variable, and it's hard to predict just how much you'll pay – but there are some fees everyone can expect.
In national surveys, experts say California is an expensive state to divorce in.
Expect to pay these fees:
- Divorce filing fees of about $435
- Divorce attorney fees of about $13,800 (if you end up needing a lawyer)
The choices you and your spouse make can have a deep impact on your bottom line. Both spouses almost always get more of what they want and reach a fairer settlement by staying out of court and avoiding attorney help – and divorce without lawyers costs thousands less.
Key facts about the cost of divorce in California
- California is the most expensive state in which to file for a divorce.
- California is so expensive, in part, because estates are so large and complex.
- One of the most expensive divorces in California's history involved the ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers, multiple homes, and a requested $1 million in monthly spousal support.
- More than 185 billionaires live in California, making it the state with the most billionaires in America.
- California has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. Just 6.5% of female residents are divorced in the state, compared to 10.7% in Arkansas.
Your relationship can impact your fee
The more you disagree with your spouse, the more you’ll spend on your divorce. While you might prefer to keep the details of your breakup private, you may have to declare your divorce model. And the option you choose speaks volumes about how well you collaborate in a partnership.
Cost of an uncontested divorce in California
During an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on everything. They don’t need much time (if any) with lawyers to divide their property, set up parenting and childcare arrangements, and decide on alimony payments (spousal support).
A divorce like this could be thousands of dollars less expensive than the other option. You’ll save money due to the small (or nonexistent) presence of lawyers.
Cost of a contested divorce in California
In a contested divorce, you and your spouse can’t agree on the details. The more you disagree, the more you’ll pay lawyers to assist. Your costs rise accordingly.
You might disagree about the following:
- Child support payments
- Custody agreements
- Retirement accounts
- Spousal support (alimony or palimony) payments
It pays to work closely with your spouse. But if you can’t agree, we recommend trying mediation or divorce coaching. If it's a complicated legal issue, you can consult an attorney as needed.
How much does it cost to file for divorce?
California divorces are handled by the court system. You must file paperwork, responses should be recorded, and the case should be tracked. All of these steps require personnel and space, and not surprisingly, you're charged for the work.
Expect to pay about $435 to start your divorce case in California.
How much does a divorce lawyer cost?
On average, lawyers charge almost $14,000 for an average divorce in California. But those fees can vary dramatically.
Lawyers are ethically required to charge reasonable fees. But professionals with decades of experience in marital law can cost more than newer lawyers.
And if your case ends up going to court, your lawyer may charge more. Court time typically comes with a bigger bill than behind-the-scenes negotiating.
Any lawyer should provide you with a detailed estimate of the total cost you can expect and their billing methods.
How can I save money on a divorce?
Work closely with your spouse, and you can save money on your divorce. Collaboration could also help you ease possible trauma caused by difficult, lawyer-based conversations. Plenty of divorce collaboration options exist.
A mediator is a professional deal-maker. This person helps you and your spouse talk through your issues and come up with a plan you can both support.
A mediator doesn't make decisions, and you must both agree on any plans you craft. And a mediator can't force anyone to compromise. They also can't give legal advice. Instead, they help you know all your options and help keep the peace.
Working with a divorce mediator could help you work through sticky spots and work out a healthy divorce, all while saving money. Mediators charge much less than lawyers do, and some are both mediators and lawyers.
In California, couples can opt for a collaborative divorce. You both hire lawyers with collaboration experience, and they assist you in developing an agreement. A four-person team like this can help you settle even sticky points (like custody agreements) without arguing in front of a judge in a court case.
In some cases, you can end your partnership without filing for an expensive divorce. A summary dissolution, available in California, is relatively inexpensive and requires less paperwork.
Use a summary dissolution if you fit the following criteria:
- Have been married fewer than 5 years
- Have no children
- Have less than $6,000 in debt and less than $47,000 in assets
- Don't want spousal support
- Agree on how to split your assets
You'll pay the filing fee of up to $450 for this process, but you won't need a lawyer.
All California courts have free self-help programs. You can download forms, watch videos, and ask staff questions if the process is unclear.
You may need to collaborate with your partner during this process to ensure that everyone is happy with the outcome. But together, you could save a great deal of money.
Save money on your California divorce
Few couples want to spend thousands on the break-up of their relationship. Hello Divorce can help you develop a fair, equitable plan that moves you both forward without costing too much.
Access legal help from our experienced legal team on-demand at a transparent, flat-rate fee. Click here for more information.
We also have a team of mediators to help you and your spouse with working out agreements on everything from property division to child support. You don't need the expense of a traditional lawyer. And you don't need the stress of not knowing how much your divorce will cost.
Access the form-generating features of Divorce Navigator today with your DIY Divorce membership, or choose DIY Pro California for the added benefit of having an account coordinator walk you through the divorce process. Either way, you'll save yourself time and (more) heartache.
Watch our five-minute video to understand the steps you will take to complete your divorce.
ReferencesHow Much It Costs to Get Divorced in Every U.S. State. (August 2020). Business Insider.
States with the Largest Population of Billionaires in the United States in 2022. (September 2022). Statista.
California's Most Expensive Divorce. (July 2017). Daily Beast.
Here Are the States Where Your Marriage Won't Last. (December 2020). U.S. News and World Report.
Divorce in California. Judicial Branch of California.
Fees and Expenses. (December 2020). American Bar Association.
File Summary Dissolution Forms with the Court. Judicial Branch of California.
Find Out of You Qualify for Summary Dissolution. Judicial Branch of California.
Get Free or Low-Cost Legal Help. Judicial Branch of California.
Resolve Your Divorce or Separation Out of Court. Judicial Council of California.