This post has been updated.
While there’s no magic number that covers all, currently the average cost of divorce in Washington is roughly between $10,500-$12,000. With children, the average cost of divorce is $15,500.
How Much Does Divorce Cost In Washington State?
Every step of the process comes with specific charges and fees. From the initial filing to relevant court costs to finding representation, it all has a price. After you finalize your divorce, a number of other expenditures arise that you’ll need to start preparing for.
It’s easy to anticipate the obvious expenses. You know upfront hiring a lawyer costs money, though just how much greatly depends on the individual situation. But then you have to consider those that seemingly come out of nowhere. Or at least the ones that you don’t necessarily expect, like the impact on your taxes or buying a bed for a new home.
Countless factors will impact the final amount of your case, these are a few of them.
- How contentious the split,
- the length of the marriage,
- future earning potential,
- the amount of property to divide,
- number of assets to split,
- owning your own business,
- whether or not you have kids,
- divvying up child support,
- designating spousal support when applicable,
- whether or not you have 401ks, pensions, IRA’s, etc.
- all of these and more will play a part.
Simple, straightforward divorces can be relatively inexpensive. But the more complicated things get, the faster fees pile up.
With that in mind, here are some costs, obvious and otherwise, you should be aware of when dissolving a marriage.
Divorce Process Costs
No matter how clear-cut and uncomplicated your divorce, you still can’t get off scot-free. In this day and age, it’s easier than ever to download the forms, fill them out yourself, file them, and be done. But even if you take a do-it-yourself approach, you have to pay.
Legal Fees & Paperwork
Just to file for divorce in Washington, costs roughly $350. (This includes fees for filing, a judicial surcharge, and court facilitator costs.)
From there, you have to serve your spouse. If you hire a lawyer, they can handle that, likely for a fee, or you can use an outside process server. Depending on what company you use, and how easy or difficult it is to find your spouse, this can run you anywhere from $50 on up.
Essentially, any time you have to submit paperwork, respond to the opposition, or appear before a judge, expect to shell out at least few dollars and watch the cost of divorce creep higher.
Beyond the first step, you encounter costs for filing petitions, responding to motions, and appearing in court. Again, the more complicated your case, the more money you’re going to spend.
Related Reading: How To File For Divorce In Washington State
In most cases, the attorney’s fees promise to be one of, if not the biggest cost of divorce. Hiring an experienced lawyer helps you navigate complex legal waters. A professional knows the process, can answer your questions, and steer you towards the best outcome. But this comes with a significant price tag.
The extent of these costs coincides with the complexity of your case. In short, the more issues, the more time you spend with your divorce lawyer, and the more fees you rack up.
In most cases, there’s a charge for an initial consultation, followed by an hourly rate.
Being organized, having all of your paperwork in order, and doing some of the legwork cuts down on how much your lawyer needs to do, thus how much they bill you for.
We cannot stress this enough; if you put in the time to educate yourself, and focus on what’s most important, you can curb some of the costs of divorce when it comes to attorneys.
If your settlement isn’t sound, problems arise- expensive problems often arise later on. Even if you take a DIY approach, it may benefit you to have an attorney look over your paperwork to ensure everything is in order before you file.
After you retain a divorce attorney (if you hire one), there are a few things you can do prior to your next meeting to get the ball rolling. There are two forms that are required for every divorce:
Downloading and completing these forms before you meet with your family law attorney will save you time (and money). If you are curious about other forms available online, you can access your county’s Superior Court Forms Directory by clicking on your county to go directly to the respective directory (King, Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, Thurston, Kitsap, Mason, Jefferson, Whatcom).
Does Each Spouse Pay Their Own Legal Fees?
In the circumstance of legal fees, it’s a very similar standard to alimony or spousal maintenance, which is, need versus ability to pay.
When there’s a significant difference in income, and one spouse pays more of the shared bills and living expenses, the expectation is that’s likely to continue while the divorce is pending.
Common Experts Necessary in Complex/ Contested Divorce
The cost of a complex divorce will be impacted by the necessity of experts. Many cases don’t require experts, but for those that do, it can be an expensive proposition.
It’s seldom necessary for a case to need all of these experts, but here is a list of the common experts required in a divorce and an estimate of the cost of their services.
- Vocational Evaluation: $4,000 to $5,000
- Vocational Evaluator In-Court Testimony: $1,000 – $1,500
- Custodial Evaluation: 1,000 to $2,500
- Private Custodial Evaluation: $10,000 or more
- Forensic Accountant: $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 to get started.
- Special Master: $2,500 to $5,000
- Home appraiser $300 – $400
- Personal Property Appraiser: $150+ per hour – Usually $750 or more total depending on complexity (for collectibles, art, etc.)
- A computer expert for data recovery and discovery: $75+ per hour, or some companies charge per GB or TB.
- Court Reporters and transcripts: $0 to $2,500 depending on the length of documents
- Process server: $75 to $400
- Private investigator: $40 to $100 per hour
- Mediator: $100 to $200 per hour
- Financial Planner or accountant: $1,000 to $2,000 flat fee; for ongoing services most firms require monthly retainers.
Though fees for paperwork, court appearances, and lawyers are the most obvious costs of divorce, none of them last forever. Once your divorce becomes official, these stop accumulating.
Depending on your situation, a number of expenses continue long after you sign the divorce decree.
If you have children, and you’re not the custodial parent, you’ll likely pay child support. Designed to provide for the continuing care and well-being of your kids, and cover the basic necessities like food, shelter, and clothing, the parent with the most overnights usually receives the payments from the other.
Though the court may award child support even in cases of 50/50 shared custody. Filing a parenting plan laying out visitation comes with fees and surcharges that raise the cost of divorce. How to calculate your child support responsibility.
After dividing the shared assets, if financial need or a large gap in earning potential still exists, the court may award spousal support. The court may take into account factors like:
- future job prospects,
- the length of the marriage,
- the age and health of both parties,
- ability to pay, and more to determine what is fair and equitable.
Many people often fail to consider the impact of taxes in post-divorce life. After finalizing your divorce, your filing status changes. You can’t continue to file as married if you’re not actually married, can you? If you pay or receive child support or spousal support, that also impacts your taxes.
Related Reading: How Is Spousal Support Calculated?
Credit Score And Debt
It’s even possible for your credit score to take a hit following divorce. Moving forward, your ex’s finances won’t impact your own. But if your name stays on any shared debt, that can come back to bite you.
Divorcing doesn’t automatically alter any pre-existing financial obligations. So, if you have shared credit card debt, a joint car loan, or a mortgage, you remain liable for those.
Much like shared property, the court also divides shared debt. Ideally, part of your divorce agreement includes explicit details about who covers what. The court may order you to make mortgage payments or your ex to pay back a car loan.
Your settlement can also include stipulations that your ex must refinance loans to be in one name. In a perfect world, that’s what will happen. But if it doesn’t, it can reflect negatively on you and your credit.
Related Reading: How Is Debt Divided During A Divorce?
By the time a divorce becomes final, most couples already live apart. But if you’re the one who moved out, setting up a new home base comes with its own set of costs.
You have deposits, down payments, replacing furniture, stocking a new kitchen, and other costs incurred while setting up a new residency. Though many may be small on their own, they add up quickly. Beyond that, even paying all of the bills from a single paycheck is a first for many.
This cost of divorce often takes a back seat to more immediate concerns but must be dealt with eventually.
Divorce doesn’t come cheap, and these are just a few of the financial elements to keep an eye on. No two situations are alike, which makes determining the average cost of divorce difficult.
Remember, the more complicated the case, the costlier it becomes. Children, high levels of conflict, significant property to divide, long marriages, all of these factors, and more, tend to send the cost of divorce in Washington skyrocketing.
Tips to Save Money On Divorce
As the old adage goes: knowledge is power.
Educate yourself on your rights and how your circumstances will affect your case. This is an essential first step in the divorce process. Knowing how the unique details of your situation impact the process helps you prioritize and create a strategy.
If you understand how things work, you can even do some of the easier tasks yourself, instead of paying a lawyer to explain every last element or handling things you can tackle on your own.
Related Reading: A Guide to File for Divorce in Washington
Gather all the relevant documents and arrange them in an accessible, logical way.
Getting the important paperwork together cuts down the amount of work your attorney must do. Too often people show up with a box or folder full of documents.
In most cases, some simple clerical work you can do on your own helps immensely. If your attorney spends a few hours organizing a mess, that’s time you get charged for. A bit of work on your end can save money.
It’s important to organize. It’s also important to organize in advance. Once the process gets going, you have motions to file and serve, paperwork to fill out, responses to make, and appearances to keep.
If you’re bad at organizing, or don’t have the time or patience, you also have other options. Some people hire temporary assistants to handle the task. It may still cost you money, but paying $50 an hour, for example, is cheaper than the hundreds most lawyers charge.
Pick Your Battles
Going into the divorce with a clear set of priorities will help you pick the important battles.
The more a couple fights, and the more contentious the divorce. The more contentious the divorce, the longer it takes. The longer it takes, the more money you spend. If you truly want to save money on divorce, prioritize. Know what you want and what’s most important.
Figure out what you’re willing to let go of and what you aren’t. Know where to spend your time, energy, and resources.
That said, don’t simply roll over to avoid spending money. If visitation is important or a certain item has a special significance, fight for it.
Divorce has a huge impact on your life moving forward. And once you have a divorce settlement in place, the details are difficult to change in the future.
Related Reading: How the Division of Property Works in Washington
It’s often costly to withhold information from your attorney or to be untruthful about your circumstances. If your divorce lawyer has all the facts, they can create the best strategy for meeting your goals.
If you lie or try to hide things, it can undermine their plan. Don’t force your divorce lawyer to change directions mid-stream. That will likely cost a significant amount.
A lawyer is not your therapist
It’s easy to lean on your attorney for emotional support. This can be a draining, stressful time, and they are in a unique position to understand what you’re going through. A good divorce lawyer truly has your best interests in mind and at heart. But remember, they also charge you money.
Having emotional support in place is hugely important during a divorce. It’s not even that your lawyer doesn’t care, but that’s not their job. Instead, turn to family or friends.
If necessary, talk to an actual therapist or mental health professional.
Taking care of yourself throughout the process is vital. An experienced professional will generally much more effective, and usually much cheaper, than using your attorney for that purpose.
Crowdfunding Divorce Legal Fees
Not all crowdfunding outlets allow for divorce, so before you begin, it’s important to examine the rules. Websites like FundRazr where you can raise money for legal fees, have options for divorce and family law matters. Others, like GoFundMe and Indiegogo, while not specifically intended for divorce, do permit you to use their services for that purpose.
A couple years ago, Josh and Sara Margulis, a California couple launched Honeyfund. It allowed newly married couples a platform to crowdfund dream honeymoons. From there, they created the offshoot Plumfund. Through this service, you can finance “life events,” like baby showers, birthday parties, or support various causes.
They even added an option to crowdfund your divorce. In this way, their efforts essentially come full circle, from the beginning of a marriage to the end.
Even relatively straightforward cases often come with a hefty price tag. Thinking about the financial side of ending your marriage can be daunting.
If you want to save money on divorce, basically, anything you can do to streamline the process and make things easier for you and your lawyer goes a long way toward that end.
From The Radio
CALLER: “My wife and I have been married for 6 years and we’ve been separated for the last year, we haven’t done anything legal yet in terms of the courts, but I’m just curious of what a ballpark of what this is going to cost me would be?”
Rick: “The expense is really going to be based on how much time is required on both sides of the case to resolve the case, and that’s what your ultimate goal is is to be done. So, a lot of the legwork you can actually get done yourself if the two of you can communicate and keep an amicable nature going on, scribble on the back of a napkin, take it to an attorney, and if that’s all that needed to be resolved, you’re going to be out of there really quick.”
Unfortunately, we also see a lot of the other side, which is you got two people at each other’s throat a little bit, and contested issues which are emotionally packed, and those are cases that can last months and months, and go all the way to trial.“
Danny: “People say all the time when they call the show, in my life and even in one of my many divorces, “ah we don’t need a lawyer, this is going to be really friendly.” And I will tell you that’s always going to be more expensive than from having a lawyer from the get-go. Cuz [sic] by the time you say, ‘turns out we do need a lawyer!’ Now you’re mad. You should have started with a lawyer before anyone got mad. That’s my advice to you.“