A divorce in California can cost as little as the $435 filing fee or hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, the average cost of a California divorce is around $17,500. This is slightly higher than the national average of about $15,000.

The cost of a divorce in California depends on a number of factors, including:

  • If the divorce is contested
  • Whether there are minor children of the marriage
  • If the case is resolved prior to litigation
  • The complexity of property division

While there is no way to predict the exact cost of a divorce, the following may offer direction when estimating the cost range for your divorce.

Is the Divorce Contested?

In a contested divorce, spouses do not agree on matters contained in their divorce and need the court to hear evidence and rule on some or all of the following:

Contested divorces require more paperwork, more time in court and are more contentious than uncontested divorces. They are also more expensive.

Uncontested divorces, which do not require court intervention, are faster and cost less than contested divorces. To have an uncontested divorce, the spouses must agree on every issue in their divorce.

Some uncontested California divorces are eligible for a summary dissolution of marriage. This is the simplest means of filing a divorce in California. In a summary dissolution, the spouses file a joint petition and response for divorce.

In a summary dissolution, all divorce matters must be agreed upon, and:

  • The spouses must be married less than five years;
  • There can be no minor children of the marriage;
  • There must be limited assets and debts; and
  • The spouses must agree to and sign a spousal support waiver.

Are There Minor Children of the Marriage?

A custody battle can significantly increase the expense of a divorce. The presence of minor children in the marriage increases the amount of paperwork and time spent in the divorce process. Having minor children also makes it impossible to file for an uncontested, summary dissolution of marriage with your spouse.

Minor children mean more issues that must be resolved before a divorce agreement or within a divorce trial. Spouses or the court must determine child custody, a visitation schedule, and child support while the divorce is pending and when it is finalized.

Spouses who come to an agreement without litigation often do so through negotiations, mediation, or other means of dispute resolution.

What Divorce Method is Being Used?

Divorce Litigation

Divorce litigation is the most well-known divorce method used by spouses to end a marriage. This is where spouses go to trial, and the court rules on their case. Although this is the type of divorce people usually think of when asked about ending their marriage, most divorces are settled prior to a trial.

Divorce litigation is one of the most expensive ways to terminate a marriage. Trials are set on the court’s schedule and are time-consuming for both divorce attorneys and spouses. They are also emotionally charged events.

Litigation should be reserved for cases where one or both spouses cannot cooperate and come to their own agreements. Usually, neither spouse is pleased with the results of a litigated divorce.

Collaborative Divorce

Instead of litigation, spouses may choose collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce is less expensive than litigation but pricier than mediation. However, collaborative divorce offers the help of numerous professionals, while mediation does not.

In a collaborative divorce, spouses meet together with their attorneys, divorce coaches, and other professionals relevant to their case, like accountants, child specialists, or real estate agents. The purpose of the professionals is to help resolve all of the divorce issues from custody and visitation to division of assets and debts.

Collaborative divorce is by no means inexpensive. It can run from $25,000 and $50,000. On the high end, this is comparable to litigation. However, any agreement the spouses come to will be a mutually acceptable agreement.


Spouses may choose to mediate their divorce. Mediators may be mental health professionals or attorneys. If a mediator is a mental health professional, the cost is typically between $100 and $250 per hour. If a mediator is an attorney, look to pay between $250 and $950.

The mediator encourages spouses to make their own divorce agreement and helps to alleviate tension between the two. The cost of mediation depends on the number of sessions needed, the location, and the type of mediator chosen. Mediation usually costs between $1500 and $10,000.

Filing Without Professional Assistance

Some spouses decide not to use professional help and to tackle divorce on their own. While spouses may think this is the least expensive and simplest option, filing for divorce without legal assistance often backfires.

Many times, spouses make mistakes on their legal forms and fail to get their case beyond the court clerk. Some spouses think they agree only to learn a month or so into their divorce that this is not the case. While others make mistakes in finalizing their divorces that can cost them financially or in some other way for a lifetime.

It is more expensive to go back and fix a bad divorce decree than to do it right in the first place. It is wise to speak with an experienced Los Angeles divorce attorney before doing attempting any do-it-yourself divorce.

How Much is a Divorce Lawyer in California?

A divorce attorney in California can cost between $250 and $950 per hour. This depends on where you live in California and the complexity of your case.

An Experienced California Divorce Attorney Can Help You

If you would like to speak with an experienced divorce attorney, call Fernandez & Karney. We can lead you through the California divorce process and ensure you understand how California’s divorce laws directly impact your case. We can also discuss the possibility of an uncontested divorce and if you qualify for a summary dissolution of marriage.

Contact Fernandez & Karney today and schedule a confidential consultation. Let us answer your questions about divorce litigation, collaborative divorce, mediation, or review a proposed settlement between you and your spouses for underlying issues. We want you to start your future on the best footing possible.