2023 How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California?

2023 How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California?
Sep 15 2023
Fate N. Shenasan

When considering a divorce in California, the financial aspects are of significant concern to most people. The court costs, legal fees, and other expenses associated with divorce can vary widely based on numerous factors, so it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the possible expenses involved before you begin your case.

The most effective way to fully prepare for and understand the costs associated with your case is to work with a quality Divorce Lawyer in Newport Beach, CA, who can offer guidance throughout each phase of the process.

Common Factors Influencing the Cost of a Divorce in California

There are many factors that can potentially affect the final cost of a divorce case. These include:

  1. Type and Complexity of Divorce – The nature of your divorce can drastically influence the overall cost, as some divorces require lots of time in court, while an amicable divorce involving straightforward assets and no minor children can be resolved relatively inexpensively. While any type of divorce can potentially become costly if complications or conflicts arise, the following categories of divorce are listed from the most to the least expensive, speaking generally:
    1. Contested Divorce – The cost of legal counsel naturally rises in cases that involve disagreements about critical matters like alimony, asset division, or custody that need to be worked out before a judge. This will be especially relevant if your attorney charges by the hour, as many divorce lawyers do, particularly for these complex or contentious cases.
    2. Mediated Divorce – A mediated divorce does require hiring an attorney who can act as a mediator, but a mediated divorce can be much more cost-effective than going to court. In addition to being faster, an amicable mediation agreement essentially allows both parties to use the services of a single attorney, cutting down significantly on legal fees.
    3. Uncontested Divorce – This is typically one of the more affordable types of divorce, as it means that both parties are in full agreement on all matters.
    4. Default Divorce – A default divorce is, procedurally, somewhat similar to an uncontested divorce. However, rather than both parties agreeing on everything, one party simply fails to engage with the process or respond to the divorce petition, resulting in a brief and one-sided affair.
  2. Your Attorney – As with many things in life, the cost of legal services can rise commensurate with their quality. This means that a lawyer with a great reputation in your city is likely to charge a bit more than a new, unproven attorney who has just opened a new practice.
  3. Local Market Conditions – Even from city to city in Southern California, you might notice that rates for legal services can vary quite a bit, with hourly rates starting under $200 in some places and averaging closer to $500 in others. From our main offices in Newport Beach, O’Leary & Shenasan Law is able to serve much of Southern California, and we offer the same rates for all clients in our service area.
  4. Litigation – While most divorces are usually settled outside of court, contentious, litigated divorces are more expensive due to the legal processes involved and the time required to prepare for a court date.
  5. Mediation and Expert Witness Fees – You should also consider that your case may involve fees paid to experts and other professionals who are called on to help with your case, depending on your circumstances.

Expected Costs of Divorce in California

At O’Leary & Shenasan Law, we understand that, just like your marriage, your divorce will be unique and personal. The estimates below can help you gain a better understanding of the potential costs involved:

  • Attorney Fees – A decent divorce lawyer in California can cost anywhere from $200 to $500 or more per hour, with some firms offering flat rates for simple divorce cases or limited services (e.g., document preparation).
  • Court Filing Fees – The cost to file your initial Petition for Divorce in California is $435, with some courts charging additional fees for certain situations, for a total cost of up to $450 in filing fees. Note that, if your divorce is litigated and you need to file additional petitions, forms, or documents, there may be additional filing fees related to those actions.
  • Mediation Fees – If the parties opt for mediation, they can expect to pay a mediator anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to $2,500 for more complex cases involving custody disagreements or unique assets.


Q: How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce If Both Parties Agree in California?

A: When both of the ex-spouses involved in a divorce agree on all the terms, this is considered an uncontested divorce. While costs can vary, this sort of divorce can, in theory, be accomplished with no more than the $435 filing fee for the initial Petition for Divorce. Keep in mind, however, that heading into any divorce without powerful legal counsel can be risky, even if things seem amicable and straightforward to begin with.

Q: Is It Always a 50-50 Split in a California Divorce?

A: California is a community property state, meaning that all assets (and debts) acquired during the course of the marriage by either party are considered marital property. These will be divided equally, with a few limited exceptions for situations like prenuptial agreements and inheritances.

This doesn’t mean that every single item or account is literally split 50-50, however. The total value of the estate will first be calculated and then each party will receive an equally valuable portion thereof. Facilitating this split can sometimes require the liquidation of major assets, like real estate or vehicles, into cash.

Q: What Is the 10-Year Divorce Rule in California?

A: The “10-year rule” in California has to do with the ordering of spousal support. Essentially, if a couple has been married for 10 years or longer, then the lesser-earning ex-spouse can be paid alimony indefinitely.

This doesn’t mean that spousal support payments will continue for life, however. This is a common misreading of the 10-year rule. It merely eliminates the pre-defined termination date that would be expected to appear on spousal support orders for shorter marriages. A “10-year rule” alimony order can still be altered or terminated by petitioning the court at a later date, should financial circumstances change for one or both parties.

Q: How Many Years Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in California?

A: There is no specific minimum duration of marriage to qualify for alimony (also called spousal support) in California. That being said, the length of the marriage can certainly influence the duration and other details of the order. For shorter marriages, i.e., those lasting less than 10 years, alimony will typically only be ordered for a duration that equals half the length of the marriage itself.

O’Leary & Shenasan Law: Your Trusted Source for Newport Beach Divorce Services

Divorce is undeniably challenging, both emotionally and financially. By choosing the reputable and capable divorce team at O’Leary & Shenasan Law, you gain access not only to proven legal solutions but also to steady guidance to see you through these trying times. If you’re thinking of filing for divorce, or you’re already in the process of divorce and need counsel, reach out today for a compassionate, no-pressure consultation.


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