The Cost of Divorce: Where is it most expensive?

According to the Institute For Family Studies, the rate of divorce is at its lowest in 50 years, with 14.9 of every 1,000 marriages in the US ending in divorce [1] and the average marriage length increasing from 19 years in 2010 to 19.8 years in 2019.

However, despite these signs that divorces are decreasing, more than 746,000 divorces were still filed across the US, costing those involved not just their marriages and relationships but thousands of dollars in fees and, in many cases, debt. This leaves many needing to manage personal finances, credit and debt, let alone embark on a new life.

Key findings

  • The average cost of a divorce in the US is $19,458 per couple
  • On average the person filing for divorce will pay $9,969, with the other party paying $9,729 in legal fees
  • Children increase the cost of divorce by an average of 36.7% ($7,232) nationally, costing the average couple a combined fee of $26,930 in legal divorce cost
  • childless divorce costs $2,066 (10.5%) less than the national average, costing $17,631 between both parties
  • California has the highest average cost of a divorce, costing the party filing the divorce $14,435
  • Montana has the lowest divorce costs in the US, costing just $6,170 on average filing the divorce

Mapping the cost of divorce in the US (per person)

How much does a divorce cost in each state?

The cost of divorce can be spread into various parts, fees, legal representation, and (where applicable) settlements and alimony. However, while settlements and alimony can vary wildly in cases, lawyer fees and court costs are far more common but far less reported.

To help you understand the average cost of getting a divorce, we have analyzed various sources to understand just how much the average divorce in the USA costs; highlighting the states with the most and least expensive divorce costs.

The table below shows the combined (legal fees and representation) costs of filing for a divorce in each state, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, showing how the average divorce in the US costs $9,969; with the cost increasing by an average of 39% when children are involved.

Average per person court and legal fee costs by state:

StateFees and Lawyer Average [1]Fees and Lawyer (With kids) [1][2]Fees and Lawyer(Without kids) [1][2]
New York$13,835$18,853$12,401
New Jersey$12,300$16,760$11,026
Puerto Rico$10,400$14,117$9,338
Rhode Island$10,400$14,117$9,338
South Carolina$10,150$13,867$9,088
North Carolina$10,113$13,867$9,013
District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)$10,080$13,797$9,018
New Hampshire$9,400$12,745$8,444
South Dakota$8,595$11,754$7,692
West Virginia$8,134$11,107$7,284
North Dakota$8,080$11,053$7,230
New Mexico$6,637$9,053$5,947
National Average$9,969$13,828$8,929

The most expensive states to file for divorce

As the table and chart show, California is the most expensive state for filing for divorce, with the average (legally represented) divorce costing $14,435; rising to an average of $19,639 if those involved have children or other dependents.

With divorce filings in California the equivalent to 45.2% of the state’s median income, many soon to be divorcees would require a loan to cover their costs, view our insights into the average credit score & debt in California

Close behind California, New York is the second most expensive state to get a divorce. The average divorcee needing to spend $13,835 in court fees and lawyer costs; this figure increases by an average of 36% if children are involved in the relationship.

Five (5) most expensive states to get divorced:

StateFees and Lawyer Average [1]Fees and Lawyer (With kids) [1][2]Fees and Lawyer(Without kids) [1][2]
New York$13,835$18,853$12,401
New Jersey$12,300$16,760$11,026

The least expensive states to get a divorce

Our analysis found Montana to be the cheapest state for divorces. The average divorce in the Treasure State, costing just $6,170 fee and legal representation. This is $3,799 less than the national average and $8,265 less than the most expensive state, California.

The second cheapest state for getting divorced in the US is New Mexico, the average divorce costing $6,637; with those involving children and other dependents $9,053 and those without $5,947.

Five (5) least expensive states to get divorced:

StateFees and Lawyer Average [1]Fees and Lawyer (With kids) [1][2]Fees and Lawyer(Without kids) [1][2]
New Mexico$6,637$9,053$5,947
North Dakota$8,080$11,053$7,230
West Virginia$8,134$11,107$7,284

Managing debt during a divorce

Managing your debt during a divorce can take on a whole new level of complexity, to avoid impacting your credit score after a divorce. 

While divorce in and of itself isn’t going to ruin your credit, because marital status doesn’t show up on your credit report, the divorce process can impact your finances and ability to keep up with payments as well as other bills. 

Like many married couples, the spouses are likely to have accumulated various types of debt during the relationship – often in the form of credit cards, mortgages, and other loans.

While some states consider all assets and debts acquired during the marriage as “community property” split 50/50 between the parties, the vast majority work on a legal principle that the name(s) signed as “owning” the debt or asset are responsible for their repayment. 

With both of these legal principles in mind, the general rule for managing debt is to try and work with your former partner to pay off any joint debts before advancing through a divorce, using savings or the proceeds from selling joint assets.

However, if that isn’t an option (and even if it is), make sure you have a clear picture of your assets and debts to ensure you’re able to split them equitably, if not equally, during the divorce proceedings.

Methodology & Sources:

Data was collected between 03/01/21 and 03/05/21, using a number of sources (below). Figures with and without children were calculated by extrapolating the national average price increases/decreases in each scenario. Figures shown include court fees (adjusted for when dependents are involved) and average legal representation fees.


Receive Our Free Guide:
"27 Ways to Reduce Expenses During Divorce"

VESTA sends 2 emails per month with valuable divorce and lifestyle tips and blogs, as well as information on our upcoming confidential events. We respect your privacy and do not share our lists with third party vendors.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.