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How much is a divorce in NJ?

Curious about the cost of divorce in NJ? Read on for info about the average cost of divorce in New Jersey and what factors make it more or less expensive.

evident Editorial Team
December 13, 2023
Jersey City promenade, NJ

Going through a divorce in New Jersey can be a complicated and stressful experience. Amidst the legal complexities, individuals often find themselves wondering about the financial costs of the divorce process. 

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

While it is difficult to accurately predict NJ divorce costs upfront, certain factors influence the overall cost in reliable ways. Understanding these factors can help give a clearer picture of what any given divorce might cost.

In this article, we'll:

  • Explore the key factors that affect the cost of divorce in NJ
  • Share data on the average cost of divorce in NJ
  • Highlight resources for people interested in lower-cost divorce options

To begin, let's start by looking at the average cost of a divorce in New Jersey.

Key Takeaways

Average Cost of Divorce in NJ

The average cost of a divorce in New Jersey is reported to be around $15,600 for cases without children and $23,400 for divorces involving children, based on data from USA Today.

That said, the actual cost of divorce in NJ can vary significantly based on individual circumstances, so bear in mind that these figures are just averages. 

Many factors affect how expensive a New Jersey divorce can get. For example, even these averages reflect that divorces involving minor children are usually more expensive than those that don't involve children. 

What affects New Jersey divorce costs?

So, how much is a divorce in New Jersey? A few key factors and the particular circumstances of a given divorce case determine how much a divorce in NJ ultimately costs.

Common costs associated with most divorce cases in NJ include filing fees, other court costs, and attorneys' fees. It is helpful to have a sense of these costs because they directly feed into NJ divorce costs. 

But there are also thematic factors that have a substantial impact on the cost of any given divorce in NJ. The two main thematic factors are how complicated the divorce is and how contentious the divorce is. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors below, beginning with the filing fee required to initiate a divorce case.

NJ Divorce Filing Fees and Court Costs

The filing fee for divorce in New Jersey is at least $300. There may also be a $25 Parenting Workshop Fee if either spouse seeks custody or visitation rights to a minor child in the divorce.

If you are the first to file, there is also often a fee for serving the divorce papers on your spouse. If you are the defendant, meaning that your spouse was the one to file for divorce, there is a $175 fee to file a response. 

After filing the divorce complaint, other fees might be required for filing additional motions or divorce paperwork with the court.

Fee waivers in New Jersey

If you cannot afford to pay the NJ divorce filing fee, a fee waiver may be available. 

The New Jersey courts website provides information about how to apply for a fee waiver, which includes submitting a form and sharing information about your financial situation with the court.

NJ Divorce Attorney Fees

So, how much does a divorce in NJ cost? For many New Jersey divorces, legal fees make up a significant portion of the total expenses. 

There are two main ways that a NJ divorce attorney will usually charge for their services: hourly rates or flat fees. 

When a New Jersey divorce attorney charges an hourly rate, they'll bill you based on the time they spend working on your case. Divorce attorneys also often request a retainer fee when charging hourly rates, which is an upfront deposit from which they deduct their attorney fees and other legal expenses.

On the other hand, a flat fee involves a fixed charge for the attorney's services. Flat fees often make sense for more straightforward or limited engagements. For example, a divorce lawyer might prefer charging a flat fee for an uncontested divorce, whereas a contested divorce with a more uncertain timeline would be better suited for an hourly rate.

pros and cons of billing methods

Average Divorce Lawyer Rates in NJ

So, how much is a divorce lawyer in NJ? The average hourly rate for Family Law attorneys in New Jersey is $361 per hour. (And note that divorce falls under the broader legal practice area of Family Law).  

Actual rates may vary, though, depending on factors like the attorney's experience and local rates in the market. For example, major metro areas like Newark tend to have higher average hourly rates compared to other parts of the state.

It’s helpful to know what the average hourly rates are. That said, note that the time the lawyer spends on your case will usually have a bigger impact on total divorce attorney costs. (I.e. the $361 hourly rate is less important than whether the lawyer bills you for 5 hours of work or 50 hours). 

This leads us to two critical thematic factors affecting the cost of divorce in NJ: 

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

How Complicated Your NJ Divorce Is

Overall, complicated divorces are more expensive than simpler divorces.  

We will cover a few of the things that can make a NJ divorce more complex, but a crucial distinction is whether the divorce is uncontested or contested.  

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce In New Jersey

An uncontested divorce is when the spouses reach agreement on all divorce-related matters, such as:

  • Alimony (sometimes called spousal support or spousal maintenance) 
  • Child custody 
  • Child support
  • Property division

An uncontested divorce in NJ is generally simpler and, therefore, less expensive than contested divorces.

So, how much does an uncontested divorce cost in NJ? The cost of an uncontested divorce in New Jersey is often limited to court costs and filing fees, considerably reducing the overall expense.

By contrast, when the parties cannot agree on one or more issues, they must file for a contested divorce. Contested divorces tend to take longer and cost more than uncontested divorces.

But there is a wide range of how much a contested divorce might cost. How many unresolved issues there are, and the intensity of the disputes surrounding those issues, will influence the total cost of a contested divorce in New Jersey.

Factors That Make A NJ Divorce More Complicated

Multiple factors contribute to the complexity of a New Jersey divorce, resulting in increased costs. 

  • Minor children – Divorces involving minor children tend to be more complicated than those without. Additional issues like child custody and support must be addressed. 
  • Large or complicated marital estates – It is easier, and therefore less expensive, to divide small or simple marital estates. But if there is a lot of property to divide, or if either spouse has complicated assets (such as an ownership stake in a business or partnership), property division can get more complicated.
  • Alimony – Alimony is not awarded in all divorces, so it can add complexity to cases when it is an issue. 
  • Fault vs. No-fault divorce - Most NJ divorces are based on no-fault grounds (i.e. irreconcilable differences). But there are fault-based grounds for divorce, and divorces filed under one of the fault-based grounds tend to be more complicated because the filing spouse has to offer proof that the other spouse was responsible for the breakdown of the marriage (due to adultery, incarceration, etc.).

Each of these factors can make a NJ divorce more complicated and, consequently, increase the cost of divorce. 

Furthermore, each of these issues can be an area of disagreement, which connects to our next factor: the contentiousness of your divorce case.

How Contentious Your NJ Divorce Is

pointing, accusation, accuse

Similar to the complexity of a divorce, the contentiousness of a divorce greatly impacts the overall cost. 

Contentious divorces tend to be more expensive and can lead to hard-fought court battles that rack up attorneys' fees and other expenses.

When it is possible to do so, embracing a collaborative approach to the divorce can greatly reduce the time and cost involved.  Even amidst disagreements, working to find common ground and cooperating can lead to more efficient and cost-effective outcomes.

Divorce mediation and other collaborative processes are useful alternatives for working through issues and reaching agreements outside the courtroom. These methods can effectively reduce lawyer fees and court costs, leading to a simpler and more amicable process.

Lower-Cost Options for Divorce in New Jersey

For individuals worried about the costs associated with divorce in New Jersey, there are resources and lower-cost options available to help minimize expenses.

Limited-scope representation is a good alternative to hiring a divorce attorney for your entire case if that feels financially burdensome. With a limited-scope agreement, a NJ divorce lawyer can offer their services on specific tasks, like reviewing your divorce settlement agreement or participating in divorce mediation. This allows you to benefit from expert legal guidance in the areas where you need it most without shouldering the full cost of comprehensive legal representation.

Meanwhile, Legal Aid groups provide free or low-cost legal services to residents based on their income level and legal needs. For instance, Legal Services of New Jersey provides legal information and other resources through its website.

Finally, remember that fee waivers may be available if you are not able to pay the New Jersey divorce filing fees. 

FAQs About the Cost of Divorce in NJ

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

If both parties agree to get divorced and agree on all divorce-related issues, they can file for an uncontested divorce in NJ, which is much cheaper than the alternative.

For an uncontested divorce in New Jersey, the legal expenses can be limited to court costs and filing fees if the parties are able to avoid hiring divorce lawyers. If you do not hire a family law attorney, the cost of an uncontested divorce in New Jersey could be well under $1,000, even including the $300 divorce filing fees. 

If you decide to hire a divorce lawyer, though, costs will increase. 

And note that if the parties agree to get a divorce but do not agree on all divorce-related issues, they will still have to file for a contested divorce. 

How long does a divorce take in New Jersey?

How long a NJ divorce takes can vary depending on several factors. Uncontested divorces in New Jersey can be finalized within a few months if everything proceeds smoothly.

On the other hand, contested divorces can take considerably longer, often up to a year or even more. The duration of a contested divorce in New Jersey depends on multiple factors, including the court's schedule, the complexity of the issues, and the level of cooperation between the spouses.

Each divorce case is unique, though, and the timeline can depend on numerous factors specific to the particular case.

The Final Word on the Cost of Divorce in NJ

So, how much does a divorce in NJ cost? Let's recap the main takeaways. 

The cost of a divorce in New Jersey can vary significantly depending on various factors. While the average cost of divorce in NJ is approximately $15,600 without children and $23,400 with children, every case is unique and could deviate from these averages.

NJ divorce filing fees, court costs, and attorneys' fees are key components that factor directly into the overall cost of a divorce. But thematic factors, namely the complexity of your divorce and the level of conflict, also play a huge role in determining the total expenses.

For individuals concerned about the cost of hiring a New Jersey divorce lawyer, options such as limited-scope representation and assistance from Legal Aid organizations may be viable alternatives..

If you have more questions about divorce in NJ, consider speaking with an experienced  divorce attorney. If you do, be sure to ask questions during the initial consultation to figure out if the lawyer is a good fit for you.