How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California?

Divorce can be an expensive scenario for all parties, especially when disagreements prolong the situation. You’ll likely be spending money on legal fees, forms, mediators, and court dates. The cost of a divorce varies wildly depending on several factors, such as hiring a California divorce lawyer and the manner in which you proceed.

We’ll explain what affects the price of a divorce and give you a reasonable answer to how much a divorce costs in California.

What Is the Price of the Average Divorce in California?

The average price for a divorce in California is $17,500, which is about $2,500 more than the national average. However, this number may not apply to your situation. Some divorces cost about $450 for filing fees if every party agrees with the terms. Others will reach over the $100,000 mark when accounting for lawyer’s fees and all the time spent in court.

What Impacts the Price of a Divorce?

While there’s no way to get an exact estimate of what your divorce will cost before you finalize everything, you can look at several factors to get a general idea of how expensive it will be.

Contesting a Divorce

Sometimes, both sides realize it is time for a separation and are willing to come to a compromise and agreement. If neither side contests the divorce and they can agree with acceptable terms, the divorce will only really cost the filing fee. You won’t need to involve mediators, lawyers, or judges when you settle.

Uncontested divorces get more difficult when there are more stakes involved. For instance, a short marriage with no children and little communal property will be more likely to find common ground than a long-term marriage that has produced several kids and plenty of property to distribute.

Contested divorces will also necessitate a divorce lawyer and a potentially protracted legal battle. Every hour you spend with your attorney will add to the divorce cost, but they are a necessary expense to ensure you get a fair deal when everything is over.

Determining Custody

Custody is often the most arduous battle of a divorce, and it sometimes produces plenty of hurt feelings and emotions. While some couples are willing to compromise when it comes to dividing assets, most are not willing to budge when it comes to determining the future of their children.

There are two main forms of custody of a child. These forms are:

  • Physical custody: Physical custody involves the person who will be housing and caring for a child. You can seek joint physical custody, where both parents will take care of the child for a set timeframe. Other couples decide on one parent handling the bulk of physical custody and settling for visitation rights.
  • Legal custody: In California, legal custody allows you to make decisions about a child’s life and future. For instance, a parent with legal custody can decide what religion a child follows, their diet, their schooling, and their healthcare. Most couples opt for joint legal custody, and it requires the parents to compromise when making any long-term decisions.

You can negotiate a custody arrangement either in mediation or the courtroom. Judges will consider several factors when determining who should have the most custody, including the income level of both parents, home environment, criminal history, and who provides most of the care for the child already.

Method of Divorce

There are several methods for divorce in California. Depending on the method you choose, you could be paying more for the divorce process.

The most expensive method is litigation, where both sides hire an attorney and negotiate for what they believe is an appropriate settlement. Most of the time, this option is for those with a spouse they cannot come to an agreement with.

Other methods include collaborative divorce, mediation, or an uncontested divorce you handle by yourself.


How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in California?

The average divorce lawyer will charge around $350 per hour in California. There is no set rate across the state, and attorneys can charge whatever they believe their time is worth. They may increase the price based on their location, what kind of service a client needs, experience level, and any company policies. Experienced attorneys at big firms may be able to charge more than a lawyer fresh out of law school and starting their own practice.

Does California Split Everything Evenly During a Divorce?

If your divorce goes in front of a judge, they will try to split your assets as evenly as possible. California is a community property state, meaning it will only seek to distribute assets you acquired after the marriage. Anything you had before the marriage should go back to the original owner.

Who Will Pay the Divorce Fees in California?

Determining who should pay for the divorce fees is up to a judge if you or your spouse are disputing paying for the cost. The judge can order the other party to pay for the divorce fees and attorney fees if you do not have the financial means to pay them. In an uncontested divorce, the couple will likely reach a compromise on who should pay for the fees before filing.

Is a Divorce Cheaper When Both Parties Agree on Everything?

Divorce can be quite inexpensive in California when everyone agrees to the terms and the dissolution of the marriage. Without paying for mediators or attorneys in an uncontested divorce, your main expense will be the initial fees. You may still want to hire an attorney to look over the agreement and ensure you are getting a fair deal and everything is properly attended to.

Najera Law Group, APC: Experienced California Divorce Lawyers

Divorces can become very expensive when both parties can’t reach a compromise. While an uncontested divorce won’t end up being too expensive, a contested one will cost both sides a considerable amount.

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a California divorce lawyer on your side who can assist you with the process and get you an acceptable settlement. At Najera Law Group, APC, we can help with all your family law needs. Contact us today for a consultation and learn about how we can help you.



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