Divorce is one of the most stressful and life-changing events, affecting one’s emotional and financial state. Everyone knows that ending a marriage is expensive. But what is the exact cost, and what factors can change it?
It’s difficult to predict the exact price a divorcee will pay to get divorced in New York. However, several parts of a marriage dissolution have defined fees, depending on the type of divorce and other circumstances.
Keep reading for more detailed information about divorce expenses in New York.
The Average Cost of Divorce in New York State
The median price a divorcing couple pays to end their marriage in New York is $13,500. So, although getting a divorce in this state is not as expensive as in California, it is still higher than in many other states.
The reasons are manifold. For example, lawyers charge more for their services, causing divorce costs to sky-rocket in contested cases. Plus, court fees are higher than in some other states, increasing the cost of amicable divorces.
Here are the main factors that affect the final price of a divorce.
- The level of disagreements between spouses. If both parties agree to part amicably and negotiate divorce terms in good faith, they can save lots of money. For instance, they can file their case without an attorney since New York family law allows the divorcees to represent themselves in court. And even if a couple hires a divorce lawyer, the cost will be relatively low - $1,000-$1,500 compared to contentious cases.
- The presence of minor children. If a couple has underage kids, the judge won’t sign the final decree until the issues of child custody and support are addressed. Therefore, it will usually take more time and, consequently, higher lawyer’s fees. Plus, the spouses might need to pay for custody evaluation services (at least $100 per hour) for certain circumstances, such as violence, mental illness, disabled child, etc.
- The decision to use mediation. The court mediators are less expensive and charge $50 per hour. However, the hourly rates of a private mediator are much higher - $300-$400. The bright side is that the spouses won’t need more than a few meetings for negotiations to conclude a mutual agreement.
Uncontested divorces are those where the spouses part amicably. They don’t blame each other for the breakup and usually file for a no-fault divorce after negotiating all the terms. Most of the time, these couples can save a lot of money in the process.
There are a few ways to go through an uncontested divorce. First, the spouses can hire a lawyer to handle their divorce. In this case, the lawyer’s services will cost approximately $4,000. Or the couple can save money by only paying for specific tasks. For example, the cost will be much lower if the consulting attorney drafts or reviews a settlement agreement instead of full-scope legal representation in court.
The second option for an uncontested divorce is to draft the papers independently without hiring a legal professional. Let’s look at the advantages and costs of this approach more closely below.
The divorce cost without a lawyer
This option is certainly cheaper than paying an attorney to handle the case from start to finish. But it also comes with many challenges. For instance, the spouses must find the correct court forms and complete them without mistakes. Plus, they will have to understand the court procedures and follow them according to the established rules.
Even if the spouses resolve their disputes independently and complete a settlement agreement without help, they still have to cover the court fees. The minimal filing fee is $335. There are also additional fees depending on the circumstances and complexity of the case—more on those below.
If the petitioner cannot afford to pay the initial fee, they can complete and file a fee waiver request. If the judge denies it, the filing spouse has 120 days to pay the required sum, or the case will be dismissed.
How much is a DIY divorce?
A DIY divorce is probably the cheapest way to end a marriage in New York. Its significant advantage is that a person can save money on lawyer’s services. But there are still other expenses, such as filing fees, to be covered.
Essentially, a person will have to take the following steps to complete their divorce by themselves:
- Find, fill out, and file the appropriate initial forms with the court. Some of them can be found at self-help centers. A person submitting these papers to the clerk’s office has to pay a filing fee of $335. It includes payment for the index number used to identify the case. In New York, it costs $210.
- Serve the other spouse with the copies. The process server will cost approximately $100 if the defendant lives within the state. The documents can also be delivered using regular mail. In this case, a plaintiff will have to cover mailing costs.
- After the defendant has signed the papers, the plaintiff has to file them with the clerk’s office. They have 120 days to do it.
- If there is a settlement agreement and all issues are agreed upon in advance, the judge will sign the final judgment. The plaintiff will need to file it with the clerk’s office and make two copies.
The disadvantage of the DIY method is that a person will have to figure out all the legal aspects of their case without anyone’s help or advice. It’s a lonely road with a lot of room for mistakes.
Contested Divorce Cost in New York
Contested divorces are where spouses can’t agree on property division, child custody, alimony, and other issues. In this situation, they usually pay for a divorce attorney’s help handling the entire case.
The cost of a contested divorce can vary depending on the number of contentious issues and other circumstances, such as the presence of minor children. These cases are the most expensive and start from $11,000 at a minimum and can reach $23,000.
Apart from the attorney’s services, which make the lion’s share of all expenses, the spouses will probably have to pay for real estate appraisal, child custody evaluations, mediation sessions, etc. It can cost an additional $1,000-$5,000.
How much does a divorce lawyer cost?
The full-scope legal representation is, without doubt, the most expensive part of a contentious divorce. The more disputes the spouses have, the more hours of the attorney’s time it will take to prepare the case. And since they charge by the hour, the expenses will increase with every email, phone call, and drafted document.
The median hourly rate of a divorce lawyer in New York depends on their qualifications, experience, and the prestige of the law firm they work for. The median rate is $200-$300. The overall expenses vary significantly for couples who go to trial ($11,000-$20,000) and those who hire an attorney just for uncontested paperwork ($1,000-$2,000).
Even reaching a settlement agreement with the attorney involved will not be cheap. The price tag can go up to $4,000 or more depending on the number of contested issues between the couple. Every time the spouses argue over marital assets and debts, alimony, or child custody, their lawyer will need to contact their clients and the other party’s attorney. Consequently, the total bill will be higher.
New York State law allows a judge to order one spouse to pay the lawyer’s fees of the other. However, before making such a decision, the judge will consider the income disparity and the circumstances of the case.
How Much Is It to File for Divorce Online?
Since collecting the papers for uncontested cases and filling them out is quite tricky, couples who file on their own often make mistakes. Thus, it leads to many rejections by the court.
Online divorce services help to avoid such a scenario. They have become a popular go-to option for couples who want to skip complicated paperwork. But to use it, the spouses must agree on all issues before they file their divorce petition with the court.
The prices for online services vary from $150 to $500, depending on what the client gets. For example, a standard offer is a packet of papers required to start a divorce. The client might also receive a detailed guide with step-by-step filing instructions. Other extra services may include delivering the documents to the other spouse or filing the complete documentation with the court on the client’s behalf.
This option with preparing the forms for divorce online is less stressful than DIY and requires only a small investment of money. Plus, online services are time-saving and very convenient to use.