Cost of Divorce in 2024 (Legal Fees)

May 27, 2024

How much will your divorce cost you in legal fees? It's a common question asked by people who are separating from their spouses, because they want to know how much it will cost them to get divorced. The biggest cost you will have during your divorce process is the lawyer. You need to know what you're in for.

Raiford D. Palmer, AAML, shareholder of STG Divorce Law, has some insight into this issue after practicing family law in the Chicago area for more than 20 years. It's hard to know how much your divorce is going to cost, since every case is different.

The legal fees depend on how much you and your spouse are fighting over things. The more you agree on in the divorce, the less there is to fight about and the less time your attorney has to spend on your case. If you have a high-conflict spouse, chances are it is going to take longer and cost you more money to get divorced.

In general, Raiford reports that fees in typical divorce cases in the Chicagoland area in 2024 are often in the following ranges, per person:

  • A very simple case with few issues and you and your spouse agree on everything (sometimes referred to as a "kitchen table" divorce) - $5,000 to $7,500
  • A negotiated case, such as one that is mediated  - $15,000 to $30,000
  • A litigated case with a moderate level of litigation (i.e. how much back and forth there is arguing about the issues), and a settlement well in advance of a trial - $30,000 to $50,000
  • Complex litigation, which means there is lengthy discovery, lots of arguing and back and forth, and very contentious litigation (lots of motions, responses, appearances in court) - $50,000 to $100,000
  • Absolute war in the case with very complicated issues and going through a full trial - in excess of $100,000

What types of things can impact the cost? Some of the more typical issues that can cause legal fees to increase, according to Raif, include:

  • Complex assets and challenging issues regarding value of the assets (such as the need for a business valuation)
  • Custody and visitation disputes, relocation of kids
  • Complicated income scenarios, or difficulty determining income
  • Medical issues impacting alimony
  • Mental health issues (client or other party)
  • “Bulldog” lawyer on the other side who creates more arguments and/or does not cooperating in finding resolution to issues
  • Spouse using litigation for “revenge”
  • An affair, especially if the victim of the infidelity wants to seek revenge in divorce court
  • Expert witnesses required for some of these issues
  • Location of case and judge.
  • Your choice of lawyer - Is your attorney efficient and focused on getting the case done? Does your attorney do a cost benefit analysis? (In other words, do they evaluate and issue to determine if it even makes sense to fight about it in court.) Are they argumentative about everything?
  • New romantic relationship or involvement of friends or family - These could be either a positive or a negative toward encouraging you to resolve your case.

As you can see, there are lots of variables that can affect how much your case will cost. If you are divorcing a narcissist or a high-conflict person, you're likely in for higher legal fees. But if you can find a way to work out some of the issues on your own, it will go a long way toward saving you money in your divorce.

Check out Raiford Palmer's book I Just Want This Done: How Smart, Successful People Get Divorced Without Losing Their Kids, Money, and Minds, for information and advice on getting your divorce done faster and cheaper, without sacrificing quality or peace of mind. You can get divorced without an all-out war, and Raif shows you how.

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