When a couple decides to end their marriage, they are likely going through an emotionally challenging process. For many couples, the costs of a divorce can be unexpectedly high and may outstrip their budgets.
For this reason, clients must understand the costs of ending a marriage before they embark on the process. This article highlights the various factors determining the cost of ending your marriage in New Jersey and the common expenses involved.
How Much Is a Divorce in NJ?
Divorce in NJ can range from $12,000 to $15,000, when the divorce is traditional, and the case has a a lawyer that works on an hourly fee of an average of $300. However, if the divorce is uncontested it could cost around $2,000 including $300 filing fees.
What Is the Cost of Uncontested and Contested Divorces in New Jersey?
With an uncontested divorce in New Jersey, you can complete the process without court intervention and have a final judgment of divorce entered by the court within 60 to 90 days of filing the petition with the court. This streamlined process makes it quicker and cheaper for you to finalize your divorce.
With an uncontested divorce, you are not required to appear in court, and there is no trial. This, type of a divorce will cost about $1,600 with additional fees such as the filing and other expenses. Whether or not you retain an attorney, this divorce can cost as low as $500 for the required forms. However, if you choose that you must hire an attorney to help you complete the divorce, the cost may grow further into thousands of dollars depending on the total hours billed.
Contested divorces in New Jersey often involve protracted litigation and almost always necessitate the services of an attorney and other experts. In addition, they often involve a trial in front of a Judge and often require additional court hearings. This type of divorce will cost around $12,000 to $15,000, the more you go to trial and the settlement period increases, the longer the trial will take.
Depending on your divorce’s circumstances, the cost for this process can run from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands or more. Knowing that every case is different, it is vital to discuss the specifics of your case with a divorce attorney to get an accurate estimate of the cost associated with your divorce.
What Are the Factors of the NJ Divorce Cost?
Divorce attorneys in NJ get asked this question all the time. While some expenses, such as filing fees, are set in stone, others are not. Every case is different, and each family situation is unique. Therefore, the final cost of your divorce may depend on the following factors and expenses:
– Relationship With Your Spouse
Some couples live separately before filing for divorce, while others live under the same roof until their case is finalized. Getting divorced doesn’t mean you and your soon-to-be ex can’t communicate and agree on divorce-related matters. If you and your spouse could find a way to resolve issues amicably, you may be able to complete your divorce in less time and avoid costly litigation.
However, if emotions take over and you find it difficult to agree with your spouse, you might be looking at substantial legal and court fees down the road. Maintaining communication lines and being open to compromise could be a huge money saver for you during your divorce.
– Court Filing Fees
A divorce petition in NJ must be filed at the appropriate county courthouse. The filing spouse is supposed to pay a filing fee to the court when the petition is filed. On average, the filing fee is about $300 in most NJ counties. However, some counties have higher filing fees than others.
However, if you have children, this would cost $325 for filing fees.
– Parenting Workshop Fee
When a parent requests child custody or parenting time during a divorce, they may be required to attend a parenting workshop. This education class will cost you $25 and add to divorce’s overall cost.
– Service of Process Fee
After a divorce petition is filed in court, the petitioning spouse must serve a copy of the petition on their spouse. This is to ensure that the other party is adequately notified of the proceedings and can be done through the Sheriff’s office or a private process server. Depending on your choice, you could spend about $50 on this process.
– Attorney Fees
Legal fees make up a significant part of the total cost of a divorce. The average hourly rate for divorce lawyers ranges from $250 to $500 per hour. The exact figure will depend on your location, the attorney’s experience, and the complexity of your case. It’s not uncommon for your attorney to request a retainer upfront to cover the initial costs of your case. This initial payment may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Before contracting your attorney, be sure to get a fee agreement detailing how much they will charge and why so that you don’t spend more than you anticipated on your divorce.
– Dispute Resolution Options
Instead of hiring a divorce attorney, some couples choose to seek a resolution through mediation instead. Unlike adversarial proceedings, divorce mediation involves a neutral third party (the mediator) who helps the couple identify and resolve their disputes cost-effectively. While mediation is an alternative to traditional courtroom litigation, it is essential to note that a mediator can’t serve the functions of an attorney during the divorce process.
Therefore, you may still need to retain the services of a qualified attorney to represent your interests and handle your legal paperwork to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.
– Need for Experts
In addition to the different fees like court costs, attorney fees, and mediation costs, you may need the services of various experts before finalizing your divorce. Some of the cases where experts may be necessary include.
Where you and your spouse have a real property that is subject to division, you will need to recruit a real estate appraiser to determine the fair market value of the property. A real estate appraiser will also prepare a comprehensive report detailing the costs associated with selling the property. You will need this report to submit a property settlement agreement to the court for approval.
If you or your spouse have your own a business that will be affected by your divorce, you will need to hire an accountant to perform a business valuation to determine the business’s value.
If you and your spouse together have children, you may need to retain the services of a child custody evaluator to prepare a report documenting the best interests of the children in the custody of the parents. The evaluator will be the one who conducts interviews with both parents and the children to determine custody arrangements that are in the children’s best interest.
Spouses with retirement accounts that are subject to division in their divorce will need to hire an actuary to determine the account’s value as of the date of the marriage. You will also be required to prepare a QDRO dividing the retirement account per the statutory requirements.
– Other Divorce-Related Expenses
In addition to the main fees associated with divorce, spouses could incur costs such as:
- Moving: If you and your spouse live separately, one of you may need to permanently move out of your matrimonial house after filing for divorce. Regardless of your arrangements with your spouse and attorney regarding the family home, it is advisable to set aside a budget for moving.
- Health Insurance: If you’re covered under a spouse’s health insurance plan, you will likely need to purchase your health insurance coverage during the divorce proceedings.
- Auto insurance policy: If you’ve listed your vehicle as a marital asset in your divorce papers, you will need it to be removed from your joint policy and replaced with a new policy in your name only.
Options for Keeping Divorce Costs Low
As already mentioned, an uncontested divorce is the least expensive option for completing your divorce in New Jersey. When you can find a solution to all of your disputes through negotiation without the involvement of the court.
It is much less expensive and stressful for you to complete your divorce than it would be if you were required to litigate the matter in court. In addition to keeping the cost of the divorce low, an uncontested divorce is much faster and less stressful than the traditional litigated divorce process.
Alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation or collaborative divorce are also becoming increasingly popular among couples who wish to keep their divorce costs to a minimum. These alternative methods eliminate the need for lengthy and expensive litigation, allowing the divorcing couple to handle their issues out of court and save themselves time and money.
When a couple decides to end their marriage, the financial implications of the split become a significant consideration for spouses. As a rule of thumb, couples should set aside a significant budget to cover the costs of divorce to avoid financial difficulty after the divorce is finalized. This article highlights the expenses that affect the overall cost of divorce, so let’s wrap up with the takeaway points:
- Attorney fees make up most of the divorce costs in New Jersey.
- In a New Jersey divorce, you can always expect to pay court fees and service of process fees.
- If you choose to have an attorney for your divorce, get a clear fee agreement showing what your retainer will cover and what your attorney will bill throughout the process.
- Mediating your divorce case or having a settlement agreement with your spouse may be the best option for keeping divorce costs low.
The prospect of a breakup is overwhelming enough without also having to deal with the stress of figuring out different ways to pay for it. Before filing the divorce, discuss the financial implications of the split with your spouse to ensure there are no harsh surprises down the road.
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