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Cost of Divorce in NY

How much does a divorce cost in New York? Read on for everything to know about filing fees, court costs, and what impacts the cost of divorce in NY.

evident Editorial Team
December 13, 2023
NYC city, taxi, pedestrians

Going through a divorce in New York can be a complex and emotionally challenging journey. Amidst the legal intricacies, individuals often find themselves grappling with concerns over the financial implications of the process. 

A common question that comes up is, "How much does a divorce cost in NY?"

While it is difficult to generalize or accurately predict NY divorce costs at the outset, certain factors impact the overall cost in reliable ways. By gaining insight into these elements, one can find solace amidst the uncertainties and pressures that accompany divorce proceedings.

In this article, we will:

  • Examine the key factors that affect the cost of divorce in NY
  • Share the average cost of divorce in NY according to recent studies
  • Highlight resources for those seeking lower-cost divorce alternatives

Let's begin by looking at the average cost of a divorce in New York.

Key Takeaways

Average Cost of Divorce in NY

The average cost of a divorce in New York is reported to be around $17,100 for cases without children and $25,600 for divorces involving children, based on data from USA Today.

That said, the actual costs can vary significantly based on individual circumstances, and it's essential to bear in mind that these figures are just averages. 

Divorce proceedings are highly individualized, and many factors affect how expensive they can get. For instance, even these averages show that divorces involving minor children tend to cost more than those that don’t involve children. 

Understanding the factors that impact overall costs is critical for gaining a better sense of how much your divorce case might cost. 

What affects New York divorce costs?

So, how much is a divorce in New York? The answer depends on several key factors and specific circumstances of a given divorce case.

Costs associated with most divorce cases in NY include filing fees, other court costs, and attorneys’ fees. Knowing these costs is helpful because they directly impact NY divorce costs. 

But there are thematic factors that also have a huge impact on the cost in New York of any given divorce, namely how complicated the divorce is and how contentious the divorce is. 

We’ll take a closer look at each of these factors below, starting with the filing fee to start a divorce case.

NY Divorce Filing Fees and Court Costs

The filing fee for divorce in New York is at least $335, but it can vary depending on what county your divorce case is in and the specifics of your case. 

After initiating the divorce proceeding, there may be other fees for filing additional motions or divorce paperwork with the court. Note that those court fees can also vary by county, and you should confirm the filing fees and court costs with the court clerk in your county.

There may also be fees associated with serving the divorce papers on your spouse if you are the first to file

Fee waivers in New York

If you cannot afford to pay the NY divorce filing fee, you may request a fee waiver, which is also called “poor person’s relief” in New York. 

To get a fee waiver, you will have to file a motion with the court and provide information about your finances. There is no official statewide form, so check your local court’s website or ask the court clerk for information on how to proceed. 

How much is a divorce lawyer in NY?

So, how much is a divorce in NY? For many New York divorces, legal fees constitute a significant portion of the total expenses. 

There are two main ways that a NY divorce attorney will typically charge for their services – hourly rates or flat fees. 

When a divorce attorney charges using an hourly rate, you'll be billed based on the time the lawyer spends on your case. When divorce attorneys charge hourly rates, they also  often request a retainer fee, which is an upfront payment from which they deduct their attorney fees and other legal expenses.

By contrast, a flat fee involves a fixed charge for the attorney's services that is set in advance. Flat fees often lend themselves to more straightforward or limited engagements. For example, a family law attorney may be more comfortable charging a flat fee for an uncontested divorce with a predictable workload, while contested cases with uncertain timelines are better suited for hourly rates.

Attorney billing methods pros and cons

Which billing method makes sense for your NY divorce case will depend upon the specifics of your divorce case, your preferences, and the attorney’s preferences. 

Average Divorce Lawyer Rates in NY

So, how much is a divorce lawyer in NY? The average hourly rate for Family Law attorneys in New York is $387 per hour. (Note that divorce falls under the broader legal practice area of Family Law).  

But again, this is just an average, and actual rates may vary depending on factors like the attorney's experience and local market rates. For example, major metro areas like New York City will have higher average costs compared to other parts of the state.

While it’s helpful to know what average hourly rates are, note that the amount of time the lawyer spends on your case will have a bigger impact on total divorce attorney costs. (I.e. the $359 hourly rate is less important than whether the attorney bills you for 5 hours of work or 50 hours). 

This leads us to two critical factors affecting the cost of divorce in New York: 

  • How complicated the divorce is
  • How contentious the divorce is 

How Complicated Your New York Divorce Is

Generally speaking, the more complicated a divorce is, the more expensive it is likely to be.  

We will cover a few of the things that can make a NY divorce more complicated, but a threshold distinction is whether the divorce is uncontested or contested. 

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce In NY

Uncontested divorces occur when both spouses are in agreement on all divorce-related matters, such as:

An uncontested divorce in NY is generally faster, simpler, and less expensive than contested divorces. How much does an uncontested divorce cost in NY? The answer can vary, but the cost of an uncontested divorce in New York typically revolves around court costs and filing fees, considerably reducing the overall expense.

By contrast, contested divorces are often far more expensive. They arise when parties cannot reach an agreement on one or more divorce-related issues. (E.g. If you and your ex-spouse agree on all issues except for one, the divorce is still considered contested). 

The number of unresolved issues and the intensity of the disputes surrounding them significantly impact the total cost.

Factors That Make A Divorce More Complicated

Several factors contribute to the complexity of a New York divorce, resulting in increased costs. 

  • Divorce with children – Cases involving minor children tend to be more complicated than those without. Additional issues, such as child custody and support, must be addressed. 
  • Large or complicated marital estates – Complex marital assets, such as ownership interests in companies or partnerships, may require appraisals and complicate property division. And larger marital estates tend to be more challenging to divide compared to smaller ones.
  • Spousal maintenance – Spousal maintenance is not awarded in all divorces, so it can add complexity to cases where it is an issue. The same applies to spousal support (the term used for financial support while a divorce is pending).
  • Fault vs. No-fault divorce -- Most NY divorces are filed based on no-fault grounds (i.e. irreconcilable differences), which is less complicated because neither spouse has to prove the other was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. But there are seven grounds for divorce available, and divorces that are filed under one of the fault-based grounds are more complicated.

Each of these factors can contribute to a more complicated divorce process and, consequently, increase the overall cost of divorce in NY. 

Additionally, each of these issues can lead to areas of disagreement, which brings us to our next factor: the contentiousness of your divorce case.

How Contentious Your New York Divorce Is

Similar to the complexity, the contentiousness of a divorce profoundly impacts the overall cost. Contentious divorces tend to be more expensive, as they often involve hard-fought court battles that can rack up attorneys' fees and other expenses.

When possible, embracing a collaborative approach with your ex-spouse can yield significant benefits in reducing the time and cost of a divorce in New York. Even amidst disagreements, striving to find common ground and working cooperatively can lead to more efficient and cost-effective outcomes.

Divorce mediation and other collaborative processes are helpful alternatives for resolving disputes and reaching agreements outside the courtroom. By utilizing these methods, you can effectively reduce lawyer fees and overall court costs, resulting in a more streamlined and amicable process.

Lower-Cost Options for Divorce in New York

money, coins, stack

If you're worried about the costs associated with divorce in New York, know that there are resources and lower-cost alternatives available to help minimize your expenses.

Limited-scope representation can be an excellent option if hiring a divorce attorney for your entire case seems financially daunting. Through a limited-scope agreement, a divorce attorney can offer their services with specific tasks, such as reviewing your marital settlement agreement or participating in divorce mediation. This way, you can benefit from expert guidance in the areas where you need it most without bearing the full cost of comprehensive legal representation.

Additionally, Legal Aid organizations provide free or low-cost legal services based on your income level and legal needs. Legal Aid organizations that assist individuals in finding available resources and support include:

Additionally, remember that fee waivers may be available if you find it challenging to cover the filing fees associated with a New York divorce. 

FAQs About the Cost of Divorce in NY

How much is a divorce in NY if both parties agree?

When both parties in a New York divorce can reach an agreement, the cost of the divorce is typically much lower compared to contested cases. 

In uncontested divorces, the primary expenses usually involve court costs and filing fees, which may vary based on the county and specific circumstances of the case. If you do not hire a family law attorney, the uncontested divorce costs could be under $1,000, even including the $300-$400 divorce filing fees. 

But if you decide to hire a divorce attorney, the cost may increase. It's essential to discuss potential fees and charges with the attorney to obtain a more accurate estimate based on your circumstances.

How long does a divorce take in New York?

How long a NY divorce takes can vary depending on several factors. Uncontested divorces can be finalized within a few months if everything goes smoothly.

On the other hand, contested divorces that require court intervention can take considerably longer, often taking up to a year or more. The duration of a contested divorce in New York depends on factors such as the complexity of the issues, the court's caseload, and the level of cooperation between the parties.

It's important to recognize that each divorce case is unique, and the timeline can be influenced by numerous circumstances specific to the particular case.

The Final Word on the Cost of Divorce in NY

So, how much does a divorce cost in NY? Let’s recap the key takeaways. 

The cost of a divorce in New York can vary significantly depending on various factors. While the reported average cost of divorce in NY is approximately $17,100 without children and $25,600 with children, it's crucial to recognize that each case is unique and may deviate from these averages.

Concrete inputs, such as filing fees, court costs, and attorneys' fees, are key components that influence the overall cost. Additionally, thematic factors, such as the complexity of your divorce and the level of conflict, play a significant role in determining the total expenses.

For those concerned about the cost of hiring a New York divorce lawyer, seeking limited-scope representation and assistance from organizations like Legal Aid can offer cost-effective alternatives.

If you have more questions about divorce in NY, consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney. And during the initial consultation, don't hesitate to ask questions to ensure you find the right divorce lawyer to meet your specific needs.