Talk to a top lawyer for free

How much is a divorce in NC?

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

evident Editorial Team
April 2, 2024
Charlotte North Carolina cityscape

Getting divorced in North Carolina can be a complicated and emotionally draining experience. Amidst the many things to navigate, individuals often find themselves wondering about the financial impact of getting divorced. 

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

While it is difficult to generalize or accurately predict divorce costs at the outset, certain factors impact the overall cost of divorce in North Carolina in reliable ways. Understanding these elements can help reduce the uncertainties and pressures that accompany divorce proceedings in NC.

In this article, we will:

  • Share data on the average cost of divorce in NC 
  • Examine the key factors that affect the cost of divorce in NC
  • Share resources for those seeking lower-cost divorce alternatives

Let's begin by looking at the average cost of a divorce in North Carolina.

Key Takeaways

What is the average cost of a divorce in North Carolina?

The average cost of a divorce in North Carolina is approximately $13,100 for cases without children and $19,700 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 remember that these figures are just averages. 

Divorce proceedings are highly individualized, and many factors affect how expensive they can get. For example, 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 North Carolina divorce costs?

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

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

But there are thematic factors that also have a huge impact on how much a divorce costs in North Carolina, 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 initiate a divorce case.

NC Divorce Filing Fees and Court Costs

The filing fee for divorce in North Carolina is $225 for a divorce (called an "absolute divorce" in NC), though there may be other costs associated with initiating a divorce proceeding. For instance, it typically costs about $30 to have the Sheriff’s office serve the divorce papers on your spouse. 

Once you file the Complaint for Divorce, there may be other fees associated with filing additional motions or divorce paperwork. Note, though, that those court fees can vary by county, so you should confirm the filing fees and court costs with the court clerk in your county.

Fee waivers in North Carolina

If you cannot afford the North Carolina divorce filing fee, you may request a fee waiver, which is also called a “Petition to Proceed as an Indigent” in North Carolina. 

If your request is approved, you won’t have to pay the filing fee for filing your Complaint for Divorce and will also not have to pay the service of process fee to the Sheriff.

How much is a divorce lawyer in NC?

For many North Carolina divorces, legal fees constitute a significant portion of the total expenses. 

There are two main ways that a North Carolina 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 simpler cases 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.

pros and cons of billing methods

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

Average Divorce Lawyer Rates in NC

How much does a divorce lawyer cost in NC? The average hourly rate for North Carolina Family Law attorneys is $291 per hour. (Divorce falls under the broader legal practice area of Family Law).  

Again, though, this is just an average, and actual rates may vary depending on factors like the attorney's experience and local market rates. For example, bigger cities like Charlotte or Raleigh generally have higher average rates compared to other areas.

Note that the amount of time the lawyer spends on your case will actually have a bigger effect on your total costs. (I.e. the $274 hourly rate is less important than whether the attorney bills you for five hours of work or fifty hours). 

This leads us to two crucial factors that impact the cost of divorce in North Carolina: 

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

How Complicated Your North Carolina Divorce Is

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

There are several things that can make a divorce more complicated, but a threshold issue is whether the divorce is uncontested or contested.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce In NC

Uncontested divorces are divorces where both spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as:

  • Alimony (also called "spousal support" in NC)
  • Child custody 
  • Child support
  • Property division

An uncontested divorce in North Carolina is generally faster, simpler, and less expensive than a contested divorce. 

How much does an uncontested divorce cost in NC? Costs can vary, but the cost of an uncontested divorce in North Carolina typically comes down to court costs and filing fees, considerably reducing the overall expense. (That is, assuming the separating couple can avoid hiring attorneys).

On the other hand, contested divorces are usually much more expensive. A contested divorce occurs when the divorcing couple cannot reach an agreement on one or more divorce-related issues. (For example, if you and your partner agree on all of the issues except for one, the divorce is still considered contested). 

But there is still a broad range of paths a contested divorce could take. The number of outstanding issues and the intensity of the disputes surrounding those issues can dramatically impact the total cost of a divorce in NC.

Factors That Make A Divorce More Complicated

Multiple factors can increase the complexity of a North Carolina divorce, resulting in increased costs. 

  • Divorce with minor children – Divorces involving children tend to be more complicated than those without children. Things like child custody and child support must be addressed, which can complicate proceedings. 
  • Large or complicated marital estates – Complex marital property, such as an ownership interest in a company or partnership, might require appraisals and valuations. And with larger marital estates, there is simply more property to divide.
  • Alimony – Alimony is not awarded in every divorce case, so it can make things more complicated when it is an issue. 

Each of these factors can make a divorce process more complicated and, therefore, increase the overall cost of divorce in NC. 

Furthermore, each of these factors can increase the chances of disagreements, which brings us to our next factor: the contentiousness of your divorce.

How Contentious Your North Carolina Divorce Is

The contentiousness of a divorce can have a huge impact on the overall cost. Contentious divorces can involve hard-fought court battles that rack up attorneys' fees and other expenses, thereby making them more expensive than amicable separations.

When possible, taking a collaborative approach with your ex-spouse can have significant benefits in reducing the time and cost of a divorce in North Carolina. Divorce mediation and other collaborative processes are helpful options for resolving disputes and reaching agreements outside the courtroom.

By using these methods, you can reduce lawyer fees and overall court costs, leading to a more streamlined and amicable process.

Lower-Cost Options for Divorce in North Carolina

piggy bank, money, finance

If you have concerns about the costs associated with getting a divorce in North Carolina, know that there are resources available to help minimize your expenses.

Limited-scope representation is a good option if hiring a divorce lawyer for your entire case seems financially daunting. With a limited-scope agreement, a divorce lawyer can help you with specific tasks, such as reviewing your marital settlement agreement or participating in divorce mediation. These arrangements allow you to get legal assistance in the areas where you need it most without taking on 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. For example, Legal Aid of North Carolina helps people find the resources available to them in the state. 

And keep in mind that fee waivers may be an option if you cannot afford the filing fees associated with a North Carolina divorce. 

FAQs About Divorce Cost in NC

What is the easiest and cheapest way to get a divorce in NC?

The easiest and cheapest way to get a divorce in North Carolina is through an uncontested divorce. 

If you and your ex-spouse agree on all divorce-related issues, you can draft and submit a proposed marital settlement agreement to the court.

This process is generally faster, easier, and cheaper than contested divorces. But it only works if the divorcing couple can work together and reach an agreement on all issues pertaining to the divorce.  

How long does a divorce take in NC?

How long a North Carolina divorce takes can vary depending on several factors, including whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. 

An uncontested divorce, from Complaint of Divorce to final divorce papers, can be finalized within a few months if all goes smoothly.

Meanwhile, a contested divorce that requires court intervention can take much longer, often taking up to a year or more. The timeline for a contested divorce in North Carolina depends on factors such as the complexity of the issues, the court's schedule, and the level of cooperation between the parties.

But remember, each divorce case is unique, and the timeline can be influenced by numerous circumstances specific to the particular case.

The Final Word On Divorce Cost In NC

So, how much is a divorce in NC? Let’s recap the key takeaways. 

The cost of a divorce in North Carolina can vary significantly depending on several factors. While the average cost of a divorce in North Carolina is approximately $13,100 for cases without children and $19,700 for divorces involving children, it's crucial to remember that every case is unique, and your case may deviate from these averages.

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

For people concerned about the cost of hiring a North Carolina divorce lawyer, considering limited-scope representation and assistance from organizations like Legal Aid could offer cost-effective alternatives.

If you have more questions about divorce in NC, consider speaking with an experienced divorce attorney. And if you do, don't hesitate to ask questions during the initial consultation to ensure you find the right divorce lawyer for you.