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Divorce can be a challenging and emotional process, and before you set out to start your divorce, understanding the financial implications is crucial. If you’re considering a divorce in California, it’s essential to have a clear picture of the potential costs involved. This blog breaks down just how much does a divorce in California cost. the various expenses associated with a California divorce, helping you prepare financially for this significant life change.

Divorce Filing Fees and Costs

One of the first expenses you’ll encounter in a California divorce is the filing fee. This fee can vary by county but generally ranges from $435 to $450. The filing fee is paid when you submit your divorce Petition to the court. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you may qualify for a fee waiver, which you can request from the court.

Attorney Fees Costs

Hiring an attorney is often the most significant expense in a divorce. Attorney fees in California can vary widely depending on the complexity of your case and the lawyer’s experience. On average, California divorce attorneys charge between $300 and $500 per hour. For a straightforward, uncontested divorce, total attorney fees might range from $5,000 to $10,000. However, for a contested divorce with disputes over property, custody, or support, costs can soar to over $50,000, and certainly more if the case is very contentious and goes to trial.

Divorce Mediation Costs

Mediation is a popular alternative to litigation for resolving disputes in a divorce. It is typically less expensive than going to court. The cost of mediation can vary and ranges from as low as $100 per hour for a non-lawyer mediator to as high as $1,000 per hour for the most experienced retired judges. Total mediation costs will depend on the number of sessions needed to reach an agreement. On average, couples might spend between $2,000 and $7,000 each on mediation.

Other Court-Related Divorce Costs

In addition to filing fees, there are other court-related costs you may need to consider. These can include fees for serving divorce papers, which typically range from $50 to $200, motion fees which range by county and by type of motion, but are typically around $60 to $120, the cost of obtaining certified copies of your divorce decree (if you need them), which can be around $25 per copy plus a printing per-page fee. If your divorce involves complex issues, you might also incur costs for court-appointed experts (which can be wildly expensive and range substantially in cost based on the task assigned), such as child custody evaluators, minor’s counsel, special masters, and financial analysts.

Miscellaneous Divorce Expenses

There are several other potential expenses to keep in mind during a divorce. These can include:

Parenting classes:

Some counties require divorcing parents to attend a parenting class, which can cost around $50 to $100.

Therapy or counseling:

Seeking emotional support during a divorce is essential, and therapy sessions can cost $75 to $200 per hour.

Moving costs:

If one spouse needs to move out, there might be expenses associated with relocating.

Document preparation services:

If you choose to use a document preparation service to handle your paperwork, costs can range from $500 to $1,500.

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Factors Influencing Divorce Costs

Several factors can influence the overall cost of your divorce in California:

Contested vs. uncontested divorce: An uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on all issues, is typically less expensive than a contested divorce.

Complexity of the case: Divorces involving significant assets, businesses, or child custody disputes are more costly due to the need for expert evaluations and extended legal proceedings.

Length of the process: The longer the divorce process takes, the higher the costs, especially in terms of attorney and court fees.


Understanding the potential costs of a divorce in California is essential for financial planning and reducing stress during this challenging time. Before you begin, you should know how much does a divorce in California really cost. By being aware of filing fees, attorney fees, mediation costs, and other expenses, you can better prepare for the financial impact of divorce. Remember, each divorce is unique, and costs can vary widely based on individual circumstances. Seeking professional legal advice can help you navigate the process more efficiently and cost-effectively. We’re here to help! Check out our Podcast #7 on this topic, or watch the YouTube video here.

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I'm Cassandra, your new expert-divorce-lawyer friend.

As a trial lawyer with fifteen years of experience, I can teach you how to think like a divorce lawyer, and I can teach you everything you need to know to navigate the divorce legal system in California.

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