How Much Does the Average Divorce Cost in California?
Going through a divorce is not only emotionally taxing but costly too. Ultimately, each party needs to get their share of the assets and property they accumulated during their time together. Additionally, spousal and/or child support also plays a role in most California divorce agreement. Both parties need an experienced divorce lawyer for representation and some will need to endure significant financial loss as a result of equitable distributions of cash and property. This quick guide provides a broad overview of the average cost of divorce in California and some specific factors that can impact the cost of your divorce.
About Divorce in California
The average cost of divorce in California ranges widely based on the situation. Each issue that you and your spouse disagree about to the extent you need to reach a settlement or go in front of a judge, increases the cost. Couples who have no contested issues with their divorce can get by with an average total cost that ranges from $4,500 to $5,500. Couples who have one or more disputed issues typically need to spend between $6,500 and $14,000, when they are able to resolve their disputes through mediation or reach an agreement with the help of their lawyers.
Once couples need to go to trial to resolve disputes, the average cost of divorce in California skyrockets to $15,500, but can be more than $25,000 if multiple disputed issues exist. More disputes lead to more expensive divorces because they drag out the divorce and make the process take longer, requiring attorneys to spend more time on the case.
In California, the average divorce takes about 15 months; however, uncontested divorces can take as few as eight months. When couples have disagreements over property, child support, custody, and more, a California divorce can take 18 months or longer. On average, divorce lawyers in California charge between $300 and $365 per hour. Each hour your attorney needs to spend helping you settle disputes with your soon-to-be-ex increases the total cost for everyone involved.
Common Factors of Divorce that Impact Cost
Couples going through a divorce must deal with asset division, the issue of spousal support, and child custody and support issues if they have children. Each of these issues can directly impact the cost of divorce or impact the time a divorce takes, which also impacts cost.
Property and Asset Division
California is a community property state, which means that the law typically counts any assets or property acquired during a marriage as community property. This also means both parties are responsible for any accumulated debt. A prenuptial agreement can change things because it details each person’s rights and obligations in the event of separation.
California, like most community property states, tries to equally distribute properties and assets during a divorce, but it is not always as simple as dividing things 50/50. You cannot cut a home or car in half. You and your spouse must agree about who gets a particular asset or whether one of you purchases the other’s half of an asset. When disputes exist and you cannot reach an agreement, a judge might order you to sell the asset and split the proceeds of the sale.
Complex property division takes time. Disagreement about that division further drags out your divorce and leads to increased attorney fees, court costs, and other related expenses. You can minimize your economic loss from a divorce by opening your mind and meeting your spouse halfway to a reasonable compromise, even though it might be emotionally difficult.
Child Custody and Child Support
If you have children, part of the divorce process is creating a parenting plan that you present to the judge. In the vast majority of cases, California courts subscribe to the notion that children benefit the most by spending time with both parents. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan, it can drag your divorce out.
Additionally, child support often comes into play, even when you and your spouse have 50/50 custody. The court has the duty to ensure both parents provide financial support. If one of you makes significantly more than the other, the highest income earner might have to pay child support to their partner. If one parent has full physical custody, the noncustodial parent typically must pay child support to their ex until their children reach age 18 or graduate from high school, whichever occurs last.
Unfortunately, a custody battle for some parents is about reducing their child support obligation not because they want full custody of their children. Emotional disputes about child custody, especially as it pertains to child support will not only impact your children negatively, but they will greatly increase the cost of divorce for you and your partner.
If a significant earnings gap exists between you and your spouse, spousal support will often play a part in divorce negotiations. The purpose of spousal support is to help the lower-earning spouse get on his or her feet, whether getting a new job, going to school, or seeking out some other type of employment-related training.
Prenuptial agreements also typically include language about spousal support. If you have a prenup and one of you chooses to challenge it, or if you cannot come to a reasonable agreement about spousal support, you will need to spend the extra time and money to go in front of a judge, who will render the final decision.
How a Divorce Lawyer Can Help
California is among the states with the most costly divorces. If separation or divorce is in your future, you need to consult with a skilled divorce lawyer who can guide you through the process, help you settle disputes out of court, or represent you in the courtroom when necessary. The money you invest in with a skilled family law attorney like Gregory Pedrick can ultimately save you time and money as you go through your divorce. Contact Pedrick Law Office today online or at 818-325-3934 to discuss your divorce and learn more about minimizing your costs.