The experts at 24/7 Wall Street, LLC, crunched the numbers to gauge the cost of getting a divorce in each of the 50 states.
New Jersey came in at the sixth highest. But we also have one of the highest costs of living, so it’s not surprising that a divorce would be a bit more expensive. So what does it cost to “uncouple” in the Garden State?
There is no “typical” divorce. But here goes.
Divorces are fact-specific and vary widely in cost. The purpose of the study was to compare the relative costs of divorce by state. The number crunchers at 24/7 Wall Street calculated that the average divorce in New Jersey costs $15,600. Not as expensive as California (the highest at $17,600) but considerably spendier than the average divorce in Montana (the lowest at $8,400).
The states where divorce is most expensive tended to be states with higher costs of living. New Jersey ranks as the fourth most expensive state to live. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that states with the highest divorce costs have the lowest divorce rates. In New Jersey, only 8.6 percent of the adult population is divorced, compared to 10.9 percent nationwide.
Divorces involving children increase the cost by about half, according to the study. In New Jersey, the average cost of a divorce with kids was estimated at $23,500. Determining custody, parenting time, child support and related matters is labor-intensive.
Why does it cost so much?
The major cost center of any divorce is attorney fees. There is a tremendous amount of paperwork, even for a straightforward divorce. There are strategy sessions, court filings, discovery, negotiations and court appearances.
Complexity increases the cost. A closely held business. Real estate investments. Executive compensation. Vacation homes. Stock holdings. Retirement funds. Offshore holdings. Children from a previous marriage. Parent relocation. Alimony. Et cetera.
Litigation drives up the cost, especially hiring dueling experts to duke it out in a full-fledged trial. Custody battles are particularly expensive, because of all the professionals involved and the length of the legal process.
The more that you and your spouse can resolve out of court, the less you will spend on legal fees. Mediation can help to limit the costs.
You get what you pay for
Some lawyers advertise for “low cost” or “flat fee” divorce. And they might do a serviceable job if you have no kids, few assets and generally agree on the terms of dissolving your marriage.
But saving a few thousand on attorney fees could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in a more complex divorce. You don’t want to leave money on the table, or pay more than necessary in financial support. And a poorly written divorce agreement will likely land you back in court, costing you as much or more in the long run. When choosing a divorce lawyer, do your research and think long-term.