Cost of Divorce in WA: Predicting What You’ll Pay
If you study the cost of divorce in Seattle there is a clear trend between cost and conflict. The more issues that need to be resolved by an attorney or judge, the more expensive the divorce becomes.
While the exact price of any divorce is unpredictable, it is possible to estimate cost based on the chosen method. Depending on the degree of conflict, spouses can choose a self represented divorce, an attorney led uncontested divorce, collaborative divorce, or litigation driven divorce.
Cost of Divorce Options
- Self Represented Divorce
- Attorney Led Uncontested Divorce
- Collaborative Divorce
- Adversarial Divorce
Estimated Cost: $334 – $1100
Pros: Lowest Price, Full Control Over the Process
Cons: Time spent to learn the legal process, file the required documents, and appear in court, higher chance of mistakes in self prepared forms if spouses don’t seek legal help
There are two major forms of self-represented divorce available, so it is important to distinguish between the two routes.
Self represented: Solo
First, there are people who represent themselves from start to finish without any assistance. Representing yourself takes a lot of up front research and high attention to detail. If this is something you are considering, refer to Washington’s Family Law Handbook, which is a helpful starting place to understand the process. Washington Law Help also provides useful DIY divorce packets, which list the documents that need to be filed with the court.
Without any outside assistance, the biggest expense will be the court-filing fee, which is currently $314 in King County. In addition, self-represented filers must attend a family law orientation class in King County, which costs an additional $20. Also, parents must attend a Parenting Seminar, which currently costs $40 per parent. In total, a completely self-represented individual can file for divorce in King County and complete the process for $334.
Self represented +
The second route costs a bit more, but can save time and help mitigate of the risk of making mistakes. A person can take advantage of various services that will assist them for a low fee. Typically these services help prepare the uncontested divorce forms and provide instructions on how to file them. The person is still responsible for filing everything with the court. Fees range from $135 to $1500 for document preparation services with varying levels of customer support. Most DIY divorce sites ask users to complete online questionnaires. The answers are then used to populate the necessary legal forms, which are sent to the user. The forms are typically accompanied by filing instructions.
However, the weakness of many self-represented services is that people never get a chance to speak with an attorney about their case. Without legal advice people can make critical mistakes that can have long term negative effects.
Truce Law has its own self represented service, which bridges this risk. For a flat rate we’ll provide you with the paperwork you’ll need file your case. We can cover your options together and you’ll only pay for what you need. The rest you can handle on your own or put off until you decide you’d like more help.
For couples that have few assets and can agree on the issues this can be a reasonable option. It is also a low cost choice for those who cannot afford an attorney.
Attorney Led Uncontested Divorce
Estimated Cost: $800 – $2500
Pros: Affordable access to an attorney, Low conflict
Cons: Both spouses must be willing to agree to the terms of the divorce, An attorney cannot represent both spouses even if they are in agreement
An uncontested divorce is the most cost effective way to file for divorce with an attorney. Typically one spouse hires an attorney who can evaluate any current agreement and help resolve any remaining issues. Alternatively, both spouses can hire an attorney to act as a mediator. A mediator will facilitate discussion of any unresolved details and can provide generalized advice that is beneficial to both spouses. In either case, the attorney will prepare the divorce documents to reflect the couple’s agreement.
The key to a successful uncontested divorce is that the parties are on good enough terms to negotiate between themselves. If this is the case, uncontested divorce can provide a financially and emotionally healthy alternative to traditional divorce methods. If you’re interested in pursuing an uncontested divorce, this short educational quiz will help to educate you on the process and what is required to file this way.
Estimated Cost: $7500 – $25,000
Pros: Designed to find a compromise, Typically includes outside experts (financial planners, family planners, divorce coaches)
Cons: If negotiations break down the spouses will need to start over
If a couple elects a collaborative divorce each spouse hires his or her own lawyer and a series of meetings take place, generally six to ten, to resolve any issues. Many times outside professionals, such as financial advisors, therapists, and divorce coaches are brought in to provide additional expertise. The cost is relatively similar to an adversarial divorce, but with a focus on compromise.
This can be a great approach for spouses with complicated assets, large families, and the resources to fully engage in the collaborative process. The main drawback is that if negotiations break down the collaborative attorneys will not be able to represent the spouses in a contested case. The spouses will have to start over which means they would lose whatever funds invested into the collaborative process.
Estimated Cost: $15,000 – $200,000
Pros: No compromise is necessary, No risk of starting over
Cons: High Conflict, High Cost, A Court Will Determine the Outcome
A traditional adversarial divorce can be stressful, expensive and embarrassing. Divorce lawyers charge for their time and typically cost between $200 and $500 an hour. Most require an initial retainer that can range from $3000 to $10,000 and many times it will take more money to complete the case. Ideally, the case is settled before trial. If not, a two day trial can cost the community upwards of $20,000. Sometimes negotiations break down and trial is the only option, but the tactics used often expose private information in public and further damage the relationship.
As you can see, conflict drives costs. With the average contested divorce costing over 27,000 dollars, it is smart to plan ahead to reduce legal fees. Not to mention, 90% of divorce cases settle out of court, so it makes sense to seek compromises as early as possible. If you have further questions or would like more information about Truce Law, please call 206.409.4086 or send us a message.