Divorce can be expensive. You probably didn’t need us to tell you that. It is a common trope in TV sitcoms and romantic comedies and it’s something we also see everyday with celebrities and business owners whose divorces result in massive settlements and all kinds of resentment. But just how much does the average divorce cost in the United States, what is the divorce rate here and how does the US compare to other countries around the world?
Cost of Divorce in the United States
Before we get to the divorce rate in this country and its individual states, let’s look at the average cost of filing for a divorce. You will pay a filing fee to initiate the process and you will also need to pay for an attorney, typically by the hour. This can run-up a rather large bill, the total of which will depend on which state you reside in (as discussed below).
The average cost of divorce across the US is between $15,000 and $25,000, most of which ends up in the lawyer’s pockets. This is the amount that both parties will pay to get through the process and it does not include any possessions or money that changes hands. It also doesn’t include any assets that changed hands, any child support that was ordered to be paid, etc., So for many couples in the US this amount could just be the start.
What’s more, a huge number of Americans put themselves through this process every single year, helping to fund an industry that is said to be worth over $28 billion for the legal firms that help couples in this situation.
The US Divorce Rate
The rate of divorce in the United States is often quoted as being between 40 and 50 percent. However, this doesn’t apply to all states. California, for instance, has a higher rate at 60%, which is inflated by states like Orange County, which has one of the highest rates of divorce in the United States. It also doesn’t apply to all marriages, because if the couple have been married before then the rate increases even further.
When you take a closer look at marriage and divorce, the statistics are a little less doom and gloom. It is true that the average marriage in the US has at least a 50% chance of ending in divorce, but it’s also true that there is nearly a 70% chance that it will last for at least ten years and the odds that it will survive more than two decades is greater than 50%. Also, while the stereotype is that men stray and women stick, the stats seem to suggest the opposite and it is women who are more prone to ending the marriage. In fact, the odds of a marriage lasting 20 years are 52% for women, but 56% for men.
The Lowest Divorce Rate in the US
If Orange County has one of the highest divorce rates of all US counties, then which county and state has the lowest? You might expect it to be a religious state or a state in the Mid-West, but it’s actually New Jersey. The odds of the average couple ending their marriage in divorce
The Cost of Divorce in the US is lower here than in any other state. What’s more, second on the list is neighboring New York, followed closely behind Washington D.C.. Pennsylvania is also in the top five, just behind fourth placed Hawaii, suggesting that New England is a haven of sorts for marriage.
Most Expensive States to Divorce
Based on the average hourly fee of local divorce attorneys and the cost of filing for a divorce, the state with the most expensive divorce in the US is California, which is probably less of a surprise than the stats quoted above. The average hourly fee for an attorney is just over $400 in this state, and you’ll pay between $400 and $500 on average to file for a divorce.
The attorney fee is actually the third highest in the US, but only just, and the divorce filing fee is the highest, which is why the Golden State sits top of this list.
Cheapest States to Divorce
As for the cheapest, Wyoming tops this list, with an average attorney fee that clocks in at less than $200 an hour and a divorce filing fee of just $70 in many counties. North Dakota is also very cheap and South Dakota is only marginally more expensive, putting these two states in the top 3.
The US Divorce Rate Compared to Other Countries
The US is probably the most litigious country in the world. You don’t have to go far to find a quality, fully licensed attorney in this country. There are thousands of specialized lawyers for all kinds of sectors and family law, which focuses on divorces, annulments and other issues, is one of the most saturated sectors.
As a result, you could be forgiven for thinking that the divorce rate was higher here than in other countries and that the average settlement was also higher. But that’s not quite the case.
The divorce rate in the US is actually on the short side of average when compared to Europe and it’s much less than countries like Belgium, where the divorce rate is as much as 70%.
If you focus just on the cost of divorce in the US, then it is quite a bit more than most other countries. Take the UK as an example. It is very easy to settle a divorce for free or with legal aid in the UK, but even if you go down the paid route you will pay less than £1,500 (about $2,000) to cover the basics of filing, settling and getting consent. In Scotland it is even cheaper. Not only is it just as easy to do it for free north of the border, but the paid options can ensure everything gets settled for less than £500, or about $750.