Estimating the total costs associated with getting a divorce in Delaware County PA can be tricky. The cost of a divorce in general is largely dependent on the complexity of the case and the relationship between the parties.
If the parties live in Delaware County and are able to agree on all of the terms of the divorce including (if applicable) distribution of property, alimony, child custody and support, a simple, mediated, uncontested divorce can start at approximately $1,500.
Even if the parties are not initially in agreement on all of the issues but are amicable, able to communicate with each other and are willing to work together with a neutral attorney mediator to resolve the issues, a mediated divorce in Delaware County can range from $4,000 to $7,000. If you are interested in mediation, you can Learn How Divorce Mediation Works.
In contrast, a litigated divorce in which each side retains his or her own attorney averages a cost approximately $50,000 (that is $25,000 for each party). On the higher end of the spectrum, in cases with contentious parties who approach their divorce as adversaries and/or have complex financial child custody and support issues that cannot be resolved between the parties without court intervention, litigation costs easily reach $100,000. If you are interested in the difference between a divorce lawyer and a divorce mediator, read this article: Divorce Mediator or Divorce Lawyer? That is the Question.
So how can you keep divorce costs to a minimum while at the same time making sure that you are getting a fair deal and making the right decisions for your future and the future of your family? While the majority of the cost of a divorce comes from professional fees and can vary depending on the individual circumstances of the case and whether you decide to litigate or mediate a case, the court sets a schedule of filing fees for all divorce cases that are filed in Delaware County that apply regardless of how the case is resolved. If you are thinking about going it alone to save money, read Do I Need A Lawyer to Get Divorced?
In Delaware County, the base filing fee for a basic divorce complaint (with no custody) is $291.25. When there is an issue of child custody the filing fee is $339.15. When there are additional issues that need to be litigated such as alimony or child support (known as “counts”) the price increases with each count with a divorce complaint including eight counts and custody costing $643.15. A complete list of court fees can be found here.
One of the major issues divorcing couples face is property division and this is where costs can start to skyrocket. Generally, marital property is inventoried, valued and then distributed between the parties. In the simplest (and least costly) cases, the parties can agree between themselves how marital property will be divided. Even if the parties can agree on how to divide the marital property, there may be some unavoidable costs associated with effectuating the distribution of the property such as transferring a deed for the marital home or preparing a Qualifed Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) which is a court order that allows divorcing parties to divide retirement assets prior to retirement without tax or early withdrawal penalties. Preparation of deeds and QDROs generally costs between $500 -$1000 each.
There are also other costs associated with property distribution that are more variable and are largely dependent on the parties themselves and their willingness to come to an agreement on their own. For example, if the parties cannot agree on the value of the marital property between themselves, they may choose to hire a professional such as real estate appraiser to determine the value of a marital home or an actuary to determine the value of a pension. Both of these professional services cost between $300-$500. In event that the parties cannot agree on issues of property distribution either in mediation or in negotiations between their respective lawyers, they would need to file in court for the appointment of an equitable distribution master, which costs $400 in Delaware County. And remember, this is just the cost of getting in front of a decision-maker and does not include attorney’s fees involved in preparing for and appearing in court.
While there are some fixed costs involved in getting divorced in Delaware Count that just cannot be avoided, it is ultimately the actions of you and your spouse and your ability to communicate and come to a reasonable agreement that has the greatest bearing on the costs – both financial and emotional – of your divorce.