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What is the typical cost for an uncontested divorce in California?

Alhambra, CA |

We have two kids and bought a house after we got married. We have been married for more than 10 year and are seeking a divorce now. We are going to share the custody of our kids.

The house was bought under my name only, and my husband agrees to let me keep the house after our divorce. In this case, what will the cost to be in California?

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Attorney answers 4


You're not going to like this answer, but it's honest: It depends on a lot more factors that you put here.

Is there a retirement that has to be divided? How complicated do you want the marital settlement agreement to be (i.e. do you want to pay more now together and make it very complete, or do a bare bones and leave issues for later - which I guarantee will cost a lot of money in the future). These are all factors in an uncontested divorce - think of it as a form of "estate planning" to divide everything in a way that you don't have to deal in the future financially.

Do you want a specific parenting plan or do you want to work out differences later.

Assuming that there is no retirement and no complicated a good uncontested divorce can be done by a good divorce attorney for about $2,500 + fees. I'd be careful of anything under 2,000.

Good luck with your situation.

Matthew Williamson


As Attorney Williamson'ts answer notes, any lawyer who guarantees a result within a guaranteed timeframe is not being honest with you. You'll certainly save money if as you say, the issues are uncontested, and if you both agree to share a lawyer to handle the paperwork, but anytime kids and real property is involved, you have to expect some complications. But your commitment to resolving disputes amicably and making things as easy as possible for the kids, and keeping a watchful eye and firm hand on your lawyer's fees, will get you through this for a reasonable fee.

Remember that sharing a lawyer saves you money, but waives lawyer-client privilege, so make sure you don't tell this lawyer anything you don't want your soon-to-be ex to know.

Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.


This is not legal advice nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship. This information is general in nature. You should consult an attorney directly to analyze and advise you as to your unique situation.

The short answer is - it's up to you. There are many options when it comes to divorce. I believe the average in Los Angeles county is about $25,000 - $50,000 per party for a not-to-contested case in court. Of course, it can go much higher depending on how complicated or how contested the case is. If you would like to visit my website, there is a cost comparison analyses of the different options for divorce.

There are a number of factors that will affect how expensive your case will be. Like I said, for the most part, you and your spouse can control the costs... by getting the right team of professionals to guide you to an informed and satisfactory resolution. Most of what makes divorce expensive and complicated is never dealt with in the court system - emotions: anger, hurt, a desire for revenge, all of these emotions come out in "he's always 10 minutes late in picking up the children" or "I want her wedding ring back because she broke her promise". People will spend $50,000 fighting over an $8,000 piano. Not because of any true sentimental value, but because the other party wants it, or because resolving that last item means the divorce is done - they're not ready to let go.

So what are your options? You can always litigate through an attorney. This tends to be the most expensive route, but if you need immediate protective orders, it may be your best bet. You can enter an out-of-court resolution process, such as Collaborative Divorce, Mediation, or Collaborative mediation. In these processes, I always recommend that couples start with a coach - a mental health professional who will prepare each of you to focus, get your emotions in check, and learn to communicate effectively so that you can reach an agreement that meets your needs and wants. Coaches are very effective at preparing couples to make decisions on the legal issues. Mind you, these processes are totally voluntary, so you don't have to start with a coach. You can go directly with an attorney. Just understand that attorneys are not therapists, and if you chose to use one as such, it will be very expensive. Most coaches charge less than attorneys. It's up to you. From there, the collaborative attorney or attorney mediator will facilitate a discussion and resolution of the items involved in your divorce - everything from real property to custody and visitation. If there are complicated financial issues, you may want to bring in a neutral financial expert who can help you both understand, clearly, what there is to divide and how best to do it - minimizing tax consequences. You should always have a consulting attorney even if your mediator is an attorney. Unlike collaborative attorneys, a mediator does not represent either of you and, therefore, can not advise either of you. S/he can tell you what the law is in general, but not what you should do. The cost savings is still significant because you are using your consulting attorney much less than you would a litigator.

I believe the last statistics were that Collaborative Divorce is approximately 1/3 to 1/10 the cost of litigation and that mediation is approximately 1/3 to 1/10 the cost of other resolution processes (they don't compare it to litigation because it is such a small fraction of the cost).

Finally, if you already have an agreement and just need someone to prepare the paper work, there are some attorneys who will act with what we call a "limited scope" representation/capacity. Again, s/he can act as a neutral in preparing the paperwork, or s/he can actually represent one of you and prepare the paper work. In either case, the unrepresented party(ies) should have a consulting attorney advising them.

There are other options, but these are the big ones.


It depends on what you mean by uncontested, what your community assets are, what community debts you have, what separate property is involved, pensions, etc. It is much less expensive to mediate a divorce than going through the court system. In mediation you also make all the decisions instead of having a judge make them for you. You can craft your agreement in any manner (as long as it is legal) you wish. A mediated agreement is also confidential. It is also binding when filed with the courts and turned into a judgment. If you want more information on mediation please visit my website.

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