How Much Does It Cost to File a Divorce?

Most couples stand firmly behind their decisions to divorce no matter the cost, but knowing what to expect on a financial level can help prepare them for the weeks and months to come. While each divorce case is unique and will cost couples different amounts depending on their assets and settlements, the cost to file a case is more predictable. Look at the state you’re filing in, basic court fees, and the chances of needing a lawyer’s assistance to determine how much filing your divorce case might cost.

Cost to File for Divorce in California

To file for divorce in California, you must follow the state’s court process. This process begins with the couple working together to find out if they can agree on the terms of the divorce on their own or through mediation. If the couple can agree on the terms without needing to go to trial, they will save money on court costs. Having one party file instead of both parties also saves money. Next, the petitioner (the person filing for divorce) must file the official paperwork – the request for divorce.

Petitioners must pay a fee upon filing the initial paperwork for a divorce. In California, the first paper fee is $435. Petitioners will pay this fee when they file, and respondents will pay the same fee when they file the response. After payment of the initial filing fee, the petitioner will need to pay an additional $60 for every motion he or she needs to file. For example, filing a motion to request temporary spousal support would cost the petitioner $60.

Filing a motion to modify a child custody agreement comes with mandatory mediation in California. This process comes with a fee of $25 on top of the $60 to file ($85 total). Finally, it costs $20 to file a stipulation and order with the court if both parties can come up with their own agreement without needing a hearing. Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Francisco counties may charge additional surcharges. If you cannot afford the filing fee for divorce in California, request a fee waiver. Low-income petitioners may qualify for no-cost filing.

How to Save Money on Your Divorce

Even if you do not qualify for a fee waiver, other ways exist to cut costs during a divorce case in California. The best way to save money is to work with your spouse to create your own agreements, without court intervention. While you will still need to pay the basic filing fees, you can save considerable costs on divorce trials and legal fees. Compromising on the terms of your divorce during mediation is the most affordable way to get a divorce. Otherwise, you’re looking at a potentially expensive and lengthy court process.

Preparing your divorce case on your own can feel daunting, but the California family courts try to make it easier by providing a great deal of information online. Find your county court and see if it offers the necessarily forms online. Most courts have them free for download on their websites. Otherwise, consider using an online service to guide you through self-preparation for a divorce. Filing on your own can result in paying nothing more than the basic court fees.

Hiring one of the best Sacramento divorce attorneys might cost more in legal fees, but it could ultimately save you money during a contested divorce. Having a lawyer represent you could result in more favorable child custody, support, and spousal support agreements, as well as fairer property division agreements. Your divorce settlement could end in better financial stability for you in the future, even if hiring a lawyer costs more during the trial. Talk to an attorney to discuss specific fees to weigh your options.