How to get a divorce for less than $500

It has long been believed in the United States that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. The good news is that these statistics are not entirely correct. According to the CDC, only 2.3 out of 1,000 marriages end in divorce. Although this study only included data collected from 45 states, it offers a more positive view of marriage. The bad news, however, is that divorces still happen. And it’s worth it a lot of… if you go the “traditional route”.

“We’ve been trained to think you need to go to a law firm,” says Nancy Fagan, owner of the Plano, Texas, Relationship Resolution Center. “But a simple divorce should never cost more than $500. Firms that charge thousands of dollars profit from ignorance.”

While the exact cost you will pay varies by state, if your divorce is not amicable, you can expect to be in the thousands. The basic application fee can cost you anywhere from $80 to $500, which is where Fagan gets his number from. When lawyers get involved, you expect at least $10,000.

So, if you find yourself deciding that divorce is what you need to face, how can you go about it without going bankrupt in the process? Let’s take a look at your options, most of which are well below $500.

General divorce

  • Expenses: As a rule, this is only the cost of the court fee.
  • Requirements (if any): Married briefly; few assets; no children; no debt
  • Who is better: Newlyweds without children and/or assets

General divorce, also known by other names such as summary divorce, is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to end a marriage. You won’t have to go through a trial, and you probably won’t even have to work with a moderator.

“In California, it’s called instant dissolution,” says Nancy. “All states have some version of it. There are several criteria that you must meet in order to do so. In California, you must be married for less than five years, have no children, and have no debt or assets in excess of a certain dollar amount.”

Other states offer a summary divorce for those in longer marriages. Minnesota, for example, allows summary divorces for those who have been married for eight years or less. However, Minnesota still has strict asset limits in place. Neither spouse may have individual or joint assets totaling $25,000.

Florida has a broader option that they call a simplified divorce. It has no requirements for the duration of the marriage, but the couple must not have children under the age of 18, alimony cannot be involved, and the divorce must be uncontested, with each party agreeing that the marriage is “irretrievably destroyed”.

To complete the overall divorce process, you must complete the basic forms, which of course vary from state to state. You will pay the costs of filing for a divorce and any other processing fees your state may charge, but you will not have to deal with expensive attorney bills.

Who can consider a summary divorce?

  • Those with no children or assets
  • Those planning an amicable divorce
  • Newlyweds

Read more: Divorce financial guide: what to do before, during and after

divorce mediators

  • Expenses: An average of 1500-4000 dollars.
  • Requirements (if any): N/A
  • Who is better: Those who are uncomfortable going through the process alone, but do not need full-fledged lawyers

Long-term commitments often come with baggage. Whether it’s children, real estate, or other property, those who need help dividing property can do so with the help of a divorce mediator.

A mediator is a trained professional who can help you and your spouse resolve any issues that are holding you back from a full divorce. This may mean helping with child custody and support issues or property division. Face-to-face and online options are available. Keep in mind that most intermediaries No lawyers. If you work with lawyers, the process is longer and more expensive, which is why many people choose an intermediary first.

How much you will pay for a mediator will depend on the specific mediator you work with and the number of meetings you need to have to complete all the cases. Typically, each person will pay between $1,500 and $4,000.

If you are looking for a mediator, Mediate is the national directory of divorce mediators you can search.

Who can be considered a mediator in a divorce?

  • For those who need to work out the basic questions
  • Those who have children
  • Those who have few but not many assets

Online Divorce Kits

  • Expenses: on average $100-500
  • Requirements (if any): There should be no need for mediation
  • Who is better: Those with uncontested divorces are simply looking for basic documents

If you do not qualify for a simplified divorce, you can still use the online divorce kit. If you have an uncontested divorce (i.e. you have already decided how to split all your assets), the online kits will simply help you fill out the necessary paperwork that is specific to your state.

However, you need to make sure that you have completely resolved all your issues before choosing this option. There will be no professional legal assistance and mediation. You will need to prove that you have solved the following problems:

  • Guardianship and support for children
  • Right to visit
  • How do you deal with any individual or mutual debt?
  • Asset section

Websites such as MyDivorcePapers or Legal Zoom will provide you with all the necessary paperwork for your state and offer advice by email or phone. MyDivorce is only $139 and Legal Zoom is $499.

Who can think about online divorce?

  • Friendly couples who have already shared property
  • Couples without children
  • Those who want to complete several complex paperwork

Work with a lawyer only when necessary

  • Expenses: Varies depending on the type of lawyer you work with – probably several hundred dollars an hour.
  • Requirements (if any): N/A
  • Who is better: For those who cannot solve some problems, but usually want an amicable divorce.

Instead of working with a lawyer throughout the process, consider using a lawyer only as needed. If you and your ex have agreed on most terms but are unable to, say, reach child custody agreements, consider hiring a custody lawyer instead of a full-fledged divorce lawyer. Child custody lawyers cost an average of $225 to $325 an hour. If you can solve your problem in a few hours, you can get away without having to pay thousands.

Compared to a full-fledged divorce lawyer, which costs more than $11,000 on average, working with a particular lawyer only as often as you need can save you thousands of dollars each.

Who might consider working with a limited liability lawyer?

  • For those who cannot solve all issues, but solved some
  • Those willing to pay a little more than the DIY route

Seek help from nonprofit law firms

  • Expenses: Free
  • Requirements (if any): Meet your state’s low income requirements
  • Who is better: Low income individuals who cannot afford legal assistance

If you are unable to resolve your divorce on your own and have children and/or assets that need to be dealt with, you can seek help from your local non-profit legal organization. However, you need to have a very low income to qualify for many of these law firms. They are designed to help people who cannot afford legal help get the legal help they need.

If you qualify for legal assistance from one of these firms, there should be no cost to you. These organizations are funded by private donations and government funding. You can find nonprofit lawyers here by entering your zip code.

If you do not fully meet the requirements of a non-profit lawyer, there are also programs with moderate funds. If you still have a low to moderate income, these programs offer discounts on legal fees. Moderate programs means they can be found on your state bar’s website. You can also find state-specific programs at lawhelp.org.

Who would consider working with a legal non-profit organization?

  • Those who live at or below the poverty line
  • Those without complex legal issues
  • Those willing to deal with lengthy legal aid waits

Difficulties with the cheap option

While there are cheaper options, there is a reason why some couples end up paying tens of thousands of dollars each for divorce. Before moving on to the cheap option, consider the following disadvantages associated with it:

  • Some options require legal know-how. Unless you are working with a professional lawyer, you will have to answer any legal questions yourself. If you are using an online service and doing the process yourself, you will need to have some ability to research and understand legal topics.
  • Some couples need lawyers due to complex state laws.. Divorce laws are predominantly targeted at cisgender heterosexual couples. Communities such as the LGBTQ+ community face additional complexities that can make divorce even more difficult. For example, LGBTQ+ couples have complex laws regarding adoption and child custody, so not working with a lawyer is simply not an option for many couples going through a divorce.
  • Problems may arise in the future. If something goes wrong during a divorce or something goes wrong after a formal divorce, it can cause future legal problems. On the other hand, working with trained professionals during a divorce helps protect you and your children from, for example, missing alimony or the potential loss of a home.
  • You may not have the protection you need. Couples get divorced for various reasons. If there is a problem with domestic violence or if you are in a very toxic marriage, not having legal representation can leave you vulnerable. Lawyers are ready to fight for your interests and can help separate emotions from the equation so you can get what you need from a divorce.

Read more: 7 Financial Problems the LGBTQ+ Community Faces


If you and your ex are capable of civility, there are many ways to get a divorce for just a few hundred dollars.

An inexpensive summary divorce may suit you if you have no debts or children, while hiring a divorce mediator or a part-time lawyer may cost you a little more, but it will do if you have a complicated divorce or not. want to go alone.

Featured Image: Leon Raphael/Shutterstock.com

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