This article is part of our series about "Divorce in New York". You can find the links to the other articles at the bottom of the page.
How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New York?
There’s no question about it: divorce is expensive.
We’re here to help you figure out the exact costs by answering what is probably one of your first questions: how much does a divorce cost in New York, anyway?
How Much Does the Average Divorce Cost in New York?
Overall, the average cost of a New York divorce is about $17,1001. However, you know it’s a lot more complicated than that. An uncontested divorce will run you about $5500 on average2, while litigation costs average a whopping $50,000!3
Factors to Consider
Depending on how far into your research you are, you may already have some inkling that an uncontested divorce is generally a lot less expensive than a contested divorce. That’s because you won’t be paying a divorce attorney or other specialist to work out your conflicts.
Alternatively, you may have already paid someone to help with those conflicts in the form of a separation agreement. If you and your spouse are already legally separated, then you’ll be undergoing what’s known as a conversion divorce.
Maybe your divorce is only uncontested because your spouse fails to respond, in which case your divorce will result in a default judgment (a.k.a divorce in NY without spouse signature). In any case, you’re looking at the same basic cost.
In an uncontested divorce, it’s possible for your only legal fee to be the filing fee itself. In New York, the minimum divorce filing fee is $335, but that can go up a little depending on the county in which you reside and your specific needs.
However, paying just the court fee in a DIY divorce means that you and your spouse are stuck filling out all of the New York divorce papers yourselves, which is a real hassle. That’s why you’re probably better off working with an online divorce service like It’s Over Easy.
It’s Over Easy will fill out every divorce form on your behalf for as low as $9 per month. What a deal!
To learn more about how this works, check out our page Online Divorce New York.
The Cost of Contested Divorce and the Factors Affecting It
The cost of contested divorce, however, is a lot less predictable. As a result, we thought it best to give you the full breakdown of factors impacting overall expense.
Factor 1: Fault vs No Fault Divorce
The first factor impacting the cost of your contested New York divorce is whether you’re filing for a fault divorce or a no fault divorce. You or your spouse will have to make this decision by the time you submit your first divorce document to the court, known as the petition.
The petition initiates your divorce action. To learn about the subsequent steps, check out our article on how to file for divorce in New York.
In a fault divorce, one spouse alleges legal wrongdoing on the part of the other spouse, which they must then prove in court. In a New York no fault divorce, you and your spouse will simply cite irreconcilable differences as the reason your marriage is ending.
This means that, by alleging fault, you will almost certainly require the costly services of a divorce lawyer from a reputable family law firm. The need for an attorney is the main reason why alleging fault makes the divorce process so much more expensive.
Furthermore, even though many people also decide to hire an attorney in no fault cases, alleging fault makes for much longer, more complicated divorce proceedings, meaning that in all likelihood your attorney will be able to bill a lot more hours.
Notably, New York divorce law does allow the court to award attorney’s fees at their discretion, but this isn’t something you can count on when you make the decision to lawyer up.
So, before you pay a lawyer their initial retainer fee with the intention of alleging fault, try consulting more than one attorney to find out if you really have a strong case. If you don’t, you might be better off forgoing the lawyer altogether.
Factor 2: Which Divorce Method You Choose
All of this lawyer talk reminds us of another important factor that goes into divorce cost: the method of dispute resolution that you and your spouse choose.
Ideally, the two of you can work out your differences on your own when it comes to issues like child support, child custody, spousal support, and the division of marital property. Then you just need to get the divorce forms filled out before the court will issue you a divorce decree.
If you aren’t so lucky, however, you’ll need to select a professional method of dispute resolution. You may not realize that you actually have a lot of options here.
The most expensive way to negotiate is usually collaborative divorce. In this divorce process, you and your spouse each hire an attorney, as well as a shared team of other professionals like psychotherapists, financial specialists, or child specialists.
If you thought a lawyer was a big expense, then try paying all of these folks. On the other hand, the collaborative divorce process is a much more peaceful alternative to heading to court, so some couples find it well worth the money to help preserve their family for the sake of their kids.
Sometimes, however, litigation can run you even more, because an all-out court battle can go on a lot longer than a simple collaborative case.
Divorce litigation is what most people think of when they think of divorce, but it’s actually fairly uncommon. In this method, each party must hire an attorney to fight for them in court, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to expense.
We recommend avoiding a court battle if at all possible. Besides the issue of paying your lawyer, going to court can do a number on your mental health and that of your children.
A popular alternative is divorce mediation, which tends to cost significantly less than litigation. In this method, you and your spouse share the services of a professional called a divorce mediator, who will help facilitate the conversations necessary to reach a deal.
However, your most cost-effective option is of course uncontested divorce, either with a service like It’s Over Easy, or on your own if you think you can handle the paperwork…
As you make this crucial decision, you should probably educate yourself on New York’s system for dividing property, known as equitable distribution.
Factor 3: Whether You Have Kids
Kids. For all the joy they give us, they do tend to make our lives more complicated, and our divorces are no exception.
Of course, you know that if you and your spouse have children, you’re going to have to figure out child support and child custody. However, you might not expect just how much the addition of these two issues can cost you.
The reason that disputes over the kids tend to cost more than property disputes is pretty obvious if you think about it. People rightfully get very emotional about their children, and big feelings can easily lead to big checks made out to your lawyer.
There’s one thing that’s incredibly important to remember if you feel yourself starting to fight tooth and nail over child support or child custody: familial peace is always in your child’s best interest.
Additionally, if you make it to court, chances are the battle won’t make much of a difference anyway. New York courts almost always award joint custody (the exception being if one parent is violent or neglectful), and there’s a hard-and-fast formula for calculating support.
Our sincerest apologies to your attorney for letting you in on this little secret!
How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in New York?
The average divorce attorney in New York State bills around $350 an hour. Of course, you can expect to pay a bit more in the city, or in other areas with a high cost of living.
Now, as for how many hours you’ll need your lawyer to work (if you decide to retain an attorney at all) depends heavily on the factors above.
As we mentioned above, the basic court fees come out to $335, but you can find more detailed information on the website for your county’s local Supreme Court. We wish we could give you a straight answer, but the fact of the matter is that this expense varies based on where you live.
You also might need to pay additional filing fees if your case is more complicated, but once again, you’ll want to check out your local court’s website for more information.
Additional Divorce Filing Costs
If you’re DIY-ing your divorce, the filing fees are the only filing costs you’ll encounter. In other situations, you might find them itemized on your overall bill.
This can actually be a good thing. Some law firms bill at a lower rate for work that their paralegals can handle, including the preparation and filing of your divorce paperwork.
You’ll also want to look out for similar information if you’re working with an online service. Sometimes their advertised rate only covers filling out the forms, but you’ll be responsible for filing and serving them yourself.
How Much Does the Average Divorce Cost in New York?
So, you’ve heard the factors that might impact the cost of your divorce, but what are other folks paying to split up in your home state? Overall, the average cost of a New York divorce is about $17,100.
However, you know it’s a lot more complicated than that. An uncontested divorce will run you about $5500 on average, while litigation costs average a whopping $50,000!
How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in New York?
You know that the longer your divorce takes, the more you can expect to pay. So, you find yourself asking -- how long does it take to get a divorce in New York, anyway?
Well, this similarly depends on the factors we discussed above. If you and your spouse experience significant issues in reaching a deal, your divorce can easily take a year or even two.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse mostly agree right out the gate, you’re looking at a relatively expedited divorce process.
Although technically speaking there is no New York divorce law waiting period, courts tend to take at least six months from start to finish. After all, they’ve got a lot on their plates and pretty limited resources.
To continue learning about divorce in New York, see the following articles in the series:
- How long does it take to get a divorce in New York?
- New York divorce papers
- New York divorce process
- How to File for Divorce in New York
- Legal Separation vs. Divorce in New York
- No Fault Divorce in New York
- New York Online Uncontested Divorce
- The New York Divorce Law Waiting Period
- How is Property Divided in a New York Divorce?