FAQ: How Much Does Divorce Cost and Who Pays For it?

Choosing to divorce is not usually an easy decision, but once that decision has been made, thoughts can quickly turn to how much it will cost. Most people find themselves asking how much does divorce cost as everyone has heard horror stories of divorcing couples who lost their entire savings after going to war over the most minor of details. Those cases are actually rare, though, and the cost of a divorce in California usually runs from $2,000 to $20,000.


The total amount you’ll pay for your divorce depends on what issues are at stake. There are attorney’s fees and court fees, as well as costs related to hiring experts such as tax advisors, child custody evaluators, and real estate appraisers. If one or both spouses is self-employed or owns a business, then forensic accountants and business evaluators may be hired. The more legal issues you can solve outside of the courtroom, the lower your costs will be. If you find yourself at trial, you might see those estimated costs double or triple.


Some of the most common issues that need to be dealt with through a divorce include:

  • The division of property and debts
  • Alimony or spousal support
  • Child custody and support
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Claims for reimbursement and/or breach of fiduciary duty


Unless you and your spouse have agreed to a quick and amicable resolution of all matters, it is not a good idea to represent yourself in divorce. Even then, it makes sense to consult an attorney who will bring a level-headed approach to issues you may not have thought of. An experienced family law attorney can be your best advocate, ensuring that you understand all your options, as well as what impact decisions you make now will have in the future.

California divorce attorneys typically charge an hourly fee for time spent on your case. In some cases an attorney will quote a flat fee for specific services, such as preparing a petition for dissolution in an uncontested divorce.


In most cases, each spouse is responsible for paying her or his own legal fees and costs. There are exceptions, however, particularly when one spouse earns sizably more than the other. That spouse may be ordered by the court to pay some or all of the other spouse’s fees and costs if that spouse is unable to pay an attorney. If one spouse was not employed outside the home during the marriage, the judge may grant a motion requesting attorney’s fees be paid by the employed spouse.

California Family Law Code Section 2030 grants the courts power to order one spouse to pay a portion, or the entire amount, of the other party’s fees and costs. In those instances, the judge bases the order upon the “respective incomes and needs of the parties” as well as “any factors affecting the parties’ respective abilities to pay.”

Keep in mind California courts will generally not consider martial misconduct as a reason to award legal fees to the injured spouse. If, however, one spouse exhibits bad behavior during the divorce process, such as filing unnecessary motions to drag out the case, the court may order that spouse to pay the legal fees incurred by the other spouse in responding and in attorney court appearances. Post-judgment, the judge may order one party to pay all or part of the other party’s costs and fees if it’s necessary to use the court system to get the offending party to do what was ordered in the judgment.


Divorce can be very expensive and financially devastating, but choosing the right attorney can make a significant different in the amount of money you spend on your divorce.  The experienced staff at Minella Law Group will work with you to ensure your needs are being met while also taking into consideration your budget.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, click the button below, or call us at 619-289-7948.  We look forward to helping you!