How Much Will My Divorce Cost? How Long Will It Take?

Good for you for coming here. You’re grabbing the bull by the horns. You’re lancing that boil.

Let’s get right to what you want to know.

When contemplating a divorce, you realize you’re entering uncharted territory. You want to get educated fast and correctly. Two of the most burning questions are, rightfully, “What will it cost?” and “How long will this take?”

When people call me up and ask these questions I give them the truth. Many of them hang up on me in disgust.  But there’s no avoiding it. Go ahead and deny it, if you want, but fooling yourself won’t do you any favors.

Here’s the truth: odds are it will cost far more than you think (to do it right) and more than it should, and it will take much longer than you think and longer than it should.

How long? Impossible to predict how long in each particular case. It is possible for a divorce to be settled in as little as a month or so, and possible for a divorce case to drag on for years before a decree is finally issued. Here are the Utah courts’ own statistics for how long divorce cases last:
Breakdown on how long divorce cases are pending in Utah courts


“Ah,” you say, “how encouraging. 81% of divorce cases take a year or less!” Looks can be deceiving. Of course your divorce can be disposed of in 30 days or less, but basically you’ve got a 17% chance. And odds are your case will take up to a year. Few, if any, cases should be litigated for a long time, yet here I am, still doing business as a divorce lawyer.  That’s because no matter how reasonable you are, if your spouse isn’t, then you’ll either have a fight on your hands (and spend boatloads of time and money fighting) or you’ll fold like a cheap suit (and lose boatloads of money and rights getting shafted). The moral of the story: be prepared for your divorce case to take a while.

How much? Impossible to predict how long in each particular case. It is possible for a divorce to cost no more than the cost of the court’s filing fee ($318), and there’s no limit on how much a divorce can cost. But for an estimate of the average costs and duration of divorce cases nationwide, scroll down to the bottom of this post. 

Here are the reasons why divorce is often so needlessly expensive and time-consuming, in my opinion (not in any particular order):

  • ignorance of how divorce law actually works and/or refusal to accept how divorce law actually works

– so clients dig their heels in on losing arguments, and A) waste a lot of time and money and B) get frustrated and anxious in the process;

  • most clients don’t do enough of their own work on their cases and/or don’t do good work on their own cases,

– which leads to clients leaving the work they could do themselves for the lawyer to do–and bill for;

– this also leads to important opportunities lost, and that costs you too;

  • many divorce lawyers charge clients as much as they can (I’d say “most divorce lawyers,” but then someone would accuse me of making statements I cannot prove, even though I am giving you my honest opinion), as opposed to charging what is needed;
  • clients (being human) are fickle and will drag their feet as they undergo the unpleasant task of divorce, then complain when the case is moving more slowly than they wish;
  • clients hire lawyers who make them feel good about hiring them because these lawyers told the client what they want to hear, i.e., “I’ll do this cheap, I’ll do this fast, and I’ll do it well.” That’s just not realistic, despite being ever so appealing. Has a divorce ever been done cheap, fast, and well? Yes, every now and then. Is that likely to be what happens in your case? No.
  • Clients (and many lawyers) confuse “my case is done” with “my case turned out exactly the way I wanted.” Most people, when the settle their divorce cases, settle on terms they could live with, but not on terms they loved and, frankly, not on terms they thought were all that fair.

It should come as no surprise that divorce usually (not always) is made much more miserable if one or both of the spouses are afflicted with mental illness or abuse drugs and/or alcohol. So if there are no mental illness or substance abuse issues, divorce usually (not always) costs less and takes less time:

  • the less time the couple has been married (argument for alimony is weaker, fewer grudges built up over time);
  • the less property the couple has acquired while married (argument for alimony is weaker, fewer assets to fight over, costs of litigating often outweigh the value of the assets fought over);
  • if the couple has no children (no issue of child custody and child support to fight over)

If you have been married a long time, have a house, cars, retirement accounts, debts, and children, the risks of your divorce being expensive and time-consuming are much higher. Even if you don’t want to fight, if your spouse does want to fight then you may spend substantial time and money just defending yourself.

If you think a divorce will cost you $5,000 or less and take 3 months or less, the chances of your case ending this way are slim to none.

Here are some national statistics about costs and time involved in divorces, for comparison:
Martindale-Nolo infographic infographic


Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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