How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California?

Separating your life from the life you have built with your spouse is an emotionally taxing undertaking. The process can be complex, even in instances where both spouses agree to the divorce and amicably separate all marital assets. Working with an experienced San Jose, CA divorce lawyer is one way to reduce this complexity, but that can raise concerns about the overall cost of a divorce.

Divorce Costs in California

There are a few potential costs that could apply during your divorce. The exact cost of your divorce will depend on your unique circumstances, such as:

  • The value of your overall assets
  • If the divorce is contested or not
  • Whether you share children with your spouse

Some common fees that will arise during the legal processes of a divorce include:

  • Filing Fees. Every person seeking a divorce in California will pay filing fees at the beginning of the process. Both the original petitioner and the respondent are responsible for paying the fee separately. This fee, ranging from $435 to $450, is nonrefundable, even if the divorce is not granted. There are, however, some instances where the fee can be waived, such as if the party cannot pay due to financial hardship.
  • Mediation or Counseling. If there are any disputes in your divorce, the couple may choose mediation and/or counseling to resolve those disputes. Using these resources is often cheaper than a traditional divorce through the courts, but the costs are non-refundable if you are unable to reach a mutually satisfying solution.
  • Divorce Attorney. Divorce attorneys set their fees based on factors like experience level, the complexity of the divorce, the reputation of the firm, and where the divorce will be filed. A range between $150 and $450 per hour is not uncommon, but some attorneys will instead charge a flat fee for their services. A complex or contested divorce will take more time, increasing the overall cost that an attorney will charge to complete your divorce.
  • Court Costs. If you and your spouse are unable to reach a divorce agreement, the court must step in to create the divorce settlement. This will increase the total cost of your divorce, as you must pay the court costs associated with the hearings. It will also extend the length of time it takes for your divorce to finalize, as you are subject to the court’s availability for appearance dates.
  • Expert Appraisers. California is a community property state, meaning that assets acquired during the marriage must be divided equitably between the spouses. This means each asset must have an associated value to ensure that the spouses have a fair settlement. If there is any dispute on the value of an asset, or an asset is considered high-value, an expert appraiser could be brought in to provide a numerical value to the asset.

Although these common fees must normally be paid during a divorce, they are far from the only costs. Working with an experienced California divorce lawyer can help you understand the costs that may apply during your divorce and potential ways to reduce those expenses.

Lesser-Known Costs of a Divorce

The cost associated with pushing a divorce through the legal system can be significant, but it is far from the only expense that will arise from a divorce. Other costs that you may need to plan for include:

  • New Home. You may not be the spouse staying in the marital home after the divorce. The home may even be sold, and neither spouse will live there. This means that at least one spouse will need to pay the costs associated with finding a new home. There will also be costs associated with furnishing your new home.
  • Paying Bills Separately. Your total monthly income is also likely to change as you move from a dual-income household (or a household with a stay-at-home spouse/parent) to a single-income household. Your personal income may also decrease if you are responsible for paying child support or spousal support.
  • Child Necessities. If you and your spouse share children, both parents will need to ensure that their home has living essentials. The children will need beds and other appropriate furniture, along with clothes and other toys, to occupy their time when it is each respective parent’s parenting time.

With all the financial obligations, the overall cost of a divorce can easily reach the tens of thousands of dollars. Finding a skilled California divorce attorney can help you find ways to reduce these costs while also protecting your future after the divorce is final.

FAQs About Cost of Divorce in California

Q: What Is the Difference Between an Uncontested Divorce and a Contested Divorce?

A: An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties are able to create a divorce agreement between themselves. They work together to make decisions regarding issues like child custody, marital asset allocation, and child/spousal support. A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot make decisions on all these issues and must involve the court to finalize the divorce. A contested divorce will take longer and cost more.

Q: Will I Be Required to Pay Child Support?

A: There are specific legal rules in place that determine who will be responsible for paying child support. These guidelines also determine how much the payments should be each month. The judge presiding over the divorce will follow the guidelines when implementing child support, though they do have some flexibility to alter the amount.

Q: Even If My Spouse Does Not Want One, Can I Still Get a Divorce?

A: It is possible to get a divorce even if your spouse is against the idea. Unfortunately, your divorce will likely be contested if your spouse is refusing the divorce. This means that the process will be much more drawn out and expensive than if you both agreed to the divorce. In these situations, a mediator or counselor could help you reach an agreement.

Q: Do I Need to Retain a Divorce Attorney?

A: There is no legal obligation to hire a San Jose divorce attorney if you choose to get a divorce. Although online resources can help one get a basic understanding of the process, it is not generally recommended to attempt a divorce without legal counsel. A divorce attorney can help you navigate the legal intricacies and ensure that your rights are protected in the divorce agreement.

Working With a Divorce Attorney

The TDC Family Law team focuses on goal-oriented strategies and solutions, arising from decades of experience helping families transition out of their marriage. For a consultation about your divorce, contact our office today.


1530 The Alameda, Suite 108
San Jose, CA 95126

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TDC Family Law serves the entire state of California for Contempt of Court and Private Settlement Judge & Mediation

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