On average? I’d say around $20,000.
But, as you will see if you read and watch the experience of others who have responded to this question, you can spend a lot more, depending upon how many contested issues there are, how hotly contested they are, and how much time and money is spent in preparing for trial and in (desperately) trying to settle without further litigation or trial. It is not unusual for costs to exceed $30,00 to $50,000 in an “average” divorce. Costs can go even higher when the marital estate is substantial and/or when disputes over child custody are intense.
About the only way you can exercise some measure of control over costs is to “surrender” to your litigious spouse who is hell bent on either ruining you financially or winning a scorched earth battle over your children and marital estate. Even then, you pay for that in the long run.
The best way to save money on your contested divorce without sacrificing the quality of your arguments and the strength of your case is to take care of the case as much as reasonably possible before the case is filed. The more carefully and completely prepared you are the more likely it is that you will spend as time and money litigating. This is hard, though, because preparing for divorce is even less enjoyable than other long-term planning projects like saving for retirement or setting a goal to lose 20 pounds. So people usually do next to no preparing simply because the subject is so discouraging and depressing.
And the news gets worse. Usually, you don’t have the luxury of spreading out your preparations over a convenient period of time, so you will find every spare minute can be filled with useful (even crucial) divorce preparation activities. Not fun, to say the least.
Prepare anyway. And stay engaged and staying engaged throughout the divorce process. Cooperate fully with your attorney. And yes, you need an attorney (not just any attorney, a good one); while you are permitted to proceed without an attorney, if you think the costs, preparation, and maintenance of a divorce case is hard with an attorney involved, try it without one—disappointment and failure on the cost, preparation, and maintenance fronts are all but guaranteed if you don’t get a good lawyer to help you. Most people make a mess of contested divorces when they go the DIY route; they end up jumping over dollars to pick up dimes.
It’s not just a matter of saving money, but of making your best case. Preparation and staying engaged throughout the process is key both to your financial success and your success in the case itself. It’s hard, but worth it. There are no other more attractive alternatives.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277