The average divorce in New York costs between $13,000 and $16,000. That figure can skyrocket to $50,000 or even $100,000 if the divorce is contentious and requires an extended trial. With these costs, many couples are motivated to simplify their divorce and find ways to reduce costs.
But does a “simple” divorce also mean a cheap divorce? That will depend on several factors.
What is the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce?
The first thing to understand is that divorces in New York can be contested or uncontested. If a divorce is contested, that means one spouse does not want to go through with the divorce. This can cause excess arguing and complications, and it typically requires more attorney assistance and court time, leading to higher expenses.
A no-fault uncontested divorce, sometimes called a simple divorce, is when spouses agree they want to end the marriage and neither party accuses the other of abandonment, adultery, or cruel treatment. This can make the divorce process go more smoothly. Spouses may be more likely to be on the same page about the division of assets, child support, and child custody, and they are more inclined to resolve their separation quickly and inexpensively.
Whether a divorce is contested or uncontested, certain factors will affect the cost of divorce in New York, including:
- Whether you agree with your spouse about major issues
- Which county are you getting divorced in
- Whether you have children
- Whether you use a lawyer for all or part of your divorce
- Whether you use mediation
- Whether you need to go to trial
How Much Does a Simple Divorce Cost?
A simple divorce can cost as little as $335, which is the minimum divorce filing fee in New York State. This cost may increase slightly depending on the county you reside in. However, a DIY cheap divorce means you and your spouse will be responsible for negotiating all issues, meeting deadlines, and preparing and filing all paperwork yourselves, with no assistance from a lawyer, mediator, or judge. While this may be fine for short marriages with no children or significant marital assets, most couples will need more support.
A better guideline is the average cost of a simple divorce in NY, which is $5,500. This figure includes court filing fees and general assistance from a lawyer. If you are seeking child custody, child support, or spousal support, or if you have marital property, debt, or assets to divide, this number is closer to what you can expect to pay for your simple divorce.
Although the cheapest possible divorce may seem like it will save you money in the short term, it may cost you significantly in the long run. Without the expertise of a divorce lawyer and their network of forensic accountants, real estate professionals, and other experts, you may leave a large amount of money on the table, including your share of your spouse’s retirement fund and pension as well as marital property and assets. You could also receive too little (or pay too much) in child and spousal support. It may be difficult or impossible to rectify these financial mistakes after a divorce is finalized.
3 Ways to Keep Divorce Costs Down
With a little planning and clarity of mind, you do not need to spend six figures on your divorce, nor do you need to resort to a risky DIY divorce. It is possible to keep costs in check while ensuring you are financially protected. Here’s how:
- Work with your spouse. The number one factor that determines the cost and length of your divorce is how much you argue with your spouse. If you can work calmly with them, without extended fighting, your divorce costs will remain low.
- Use your lawyer wisely. Although it’s important to consult a lawyer about your divorce, you do not need a lawyer for every aspect of the process. You and your spouse can come to an agreement on your own, and you can do certain tasks yourself, like gathering financial records and making photocopies. Keep in mind that frequent, perhaps unnecessary, phone calls to your lawyer will also quickly rack up your bill.
- Stay out of the courtroom. Going to trial will increase the cost of your divorce considerably. Settle everything you can outside of court, or opt for mediation instead of a trial. If you must go to trial, a skilled divorce trial lawyer can help the process go as quickly and smoothly as possible.