How is Inflation Impacting the Cost of Divorce?

Richard Allan
October 4, 2023
How is Inflation Impacting the Cost of Divorce?

Even when it's amicable, getting a divorce is rarely a simple process. It can take a toll on both your mental and physical health, your plans for the future, your children — and your wallet. Forbes estimates the average cost of a divorce in the U.S. runs between $15,000 and $20,000. 

If you are also dealing with disputes over things like child custody or property, the price tag can hit the six-figure mark. But these days, even those who aren't going through explosive court proceedings are being hit by ballooning expenses due to soaring inflation. In this article, we will explore how the 'trickle-down' effect of inflation is impacting the cost of divorce.

How Much Does It Cost to File For a Divorce in Each State?

State Average Filing Fees Other Divorce Costs and Attorney Fees
Alabama $400 ($50 admin fee) Average fees: $10,000
Alaska $250 Average fees: $10,000+
Arizona $280 Average fees: $10,000+
Arkansas $165 Average fees: $8,000+
California $435 Average fees: $14,000
Colorado $230 Average fees: $11,000+
Connecticut $360 Average fees: $12,000+
Delaware $165 Average fees: $12,000+
District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) $80 Average fees: $10,000
Florida $409 Average fees: $10,000+
Georgia $400 Average fees: $11,000+
Hawaii $215 (without minor children), $265 (with minor children) Average fees: $9,000+
Idaho $154 (without minor children), $207 (with minor children) Average fees: $8,000+
Illinois $334 (District specific) Average fees: $10,000+
Indiana $157 Average fees: $9,000
Iowa $185 Average fees: $9,000+
Kansas $400 Average fees: $8,000+
Kentucky $148 (without an attorney), $153 (with an attorney) Average fees: $8,000+
Louisiana $150 to $250 Average fees: $10,000
Maine $120 Average fees: $8,000+
Maryland $165 Average fees: $11,000
Massachusetts $200 Average fees: $12,000+
Michigan $175 (without minor children), $255 (with minor children) (District specific) Average fees: $10,000+
Minnesota $365 Average fees: $9,000
Mississippi $400 Average fees: $8,000+
Missouri $133.50 (without minor children), $233.50 (with minor children) (District specific) Average fees: $10,000+
Montana $170 Average fees: $6,000+
Nebraska $158 Average fees: $8,000+
Nevada $217 (first appearance), $299 (joint petition) Average fees: $10,000+
New Hampshire $400 Average fees: $9,000+
New Jersey $300 Average fees: $12,000+
New Mexico $137 Average fees: $6,500+
New York $335 Average fees: $13,500+
North Carolina $75 (absolute divorce), $150 (for civil cases in district court) Average fees: $10,000+
North Dakota $80 Average fees: $8,000+
Ohio $350 (District specific) Average fees: $9,000+
Oklahoma $183 Average fees: $9,000+
Oregon $301 Average fees: $10,000
Pennsylvania $201.75 Average fees: $11,000+
Puerto Rico $400 Average fees: $10,000
Rhode Island $400 Average fees: $10,000+
South Carolina $150 Average fees: $10,000
South Dakota $95 Average fees: $8,500+
Tennessee $184.50 (without minor children), $259.50 (with minor children) Average fees: $9,500+
Texas $300 (depends on child support or custody factors) Average fees: $12,500
Utah $325 Average fees: $10,400
Vermont $90 (if you are a resident of the state), $295 (without a stipulation) Average fees: $9,000+
Virginia Use this calculator to find your district's fees Average fees: $11,500
Washington $314 Average fees: $10,000+
West Virginia $134 Average fees: $8,000+
Wisconsin $184.50 (with no child support or alimony), $194.50 (with child support or alimony) Average fees: $8,500+
Wyoming $85 (District specific) Average fees: $9,000+

Which Are the Most Expensive States to Get Divorced In?

  • California: With an average filing fee of $435 and average overall divorce costs of $14,000, California ranks as one of the most expensive states to get divorced in.
  • New York: New York follows closely, with a filing fee of $335 and average total divorce costs of $13,500.
  • Massachusetts: Massachusetts is also among the costlier states, with a $200 filing fee and average total divorce costs of over $12,000+.

Which Are the Least Expensive States to Get Divorced In?

  • North Carolina: North Carolina stands out as one of the more affordable states for divorce, with a relatively low filing fee of $75 for an absolute divorce and average total divorce costs of around $10,000+.
  • Missouri: Missouri offers reasonable divorce costs with a filing fee of $133.50 (without minor children) and average total divorce costs of $10,000+.
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma is also budget-friendly, with a filing fee of $183 and average total divorce costs of $9,000+.

How Inflation Affects the Cost of a Divorce

In June 2022, the U.S. inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 9.1%. While that's slowly gone back down to 5% as of March 2023, that's still significantly higher than the Federal Reserve's target rate of 2%. Everything from eggs to energy has been costing people more, and this has resulted in a "trickle-down effect" that has escalated the cost of dissolving one's marriage.

The higher cost of living has led lawyers to increase their fees to account for rising rent, supplies, and employee wages. Some firms have even introduced credit card processing fees, passing along that increased expense to clients. Divorcing couples are feeling the knock-on effects.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of legal services went up by 4.9% in March 2023, compared to the same period last year. Just the attorney fees alone can range from $5,000 to over $50,000, depending on factors like geographic location (typically, fees are more expensive on the coasts) and the complexity of the divorce. Some cases may even require bringing in multiple experts, further increasing the cost.

How Do People Afford Divorce in 2023?

Even people who began their divorce proceedings before prices started skyrocketing are having to navigate adjusting their finances for both inflation and life as a single person. For instance, assets and debts accumulated during the marriage may become the responsibility of both spouses depending on the state's laws. 

Alimony and child support payouts may also be subject to a cost-of-living increase, meaning they can increase after the divorce based on inflation as well. When analyzing what a party might need on a monthly basis, you must factor in the rising cost of those things — health insurance, consumables, shelter, expenses, utilities — meaning it will affect the need-based portion of alimony.

Some solutions to the rising cost of divorce include DIY divorce kits. This is a cost-effective solution in which customized ready-to-sign documents are sent straight to couples. It allows them to avoid attorney fees, and can vastly speed up the process of a divorce.

Will Divorce Become More Expensive in 2024?

While the legal bills rise, there are other expenses — or financial losses — that couples may face in this difficult process. Mortgage rates have been soaring over the past year, making it more expensive to refinance if you need to remove your spouse from the loan. Your investment or retirement accounts may have also taken a hit due to stock market fluctuations.

The housing crash of 2007-2008 is an example where many couples were forced to live together because they couldn't sell their homes due to rising costs. Nor were they able to take loans or barter for equity in the home.

Considering the financial implications of divorce during times of high inflation is crucial. Even couples who are already separated need to seriously consider whether they can afford to get a divorce right now and what their life might look like after. They may opt to initiate the process, start with mediation, and ultimately see their divorce through when mortgage rates drop or house prices level off.

It's essential to consider future costs as well and adjust your spending habits, especially if you have children. For example, you might need to budget for extra medical costs if you're no longer covered under your ex's health insurance.

There are situations where leaving the relationship is more important than maintaining your financial stability, such as being in an abusive relationship. But whatever the situation, it can be helpful to consult with a creative family law attorney who can help explore different options and ensure couples have a parachute secured when they are ready to end the marriage.

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