What’s the Typical Cost of a Pennsylvania Divorce?

What’s the Typical Cost of a Pennsylvania Divorce?

Besides being an emotionally draining experience, divorce can also be a financially draining endeavor. It’s one of the reasons why couples may think twice before filing — especially if their marital situation is complicated. In Pennsylvania as in many states, the cost of divorce may vary from couple to couple precisely because each case can be unique. Some may have faster, less costly divorce proceedings, while others can have proceedings that go on for years, which can definitely rack up the expenses.

In exploring the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania, a big determining factor typically involves how well or how badly a couple can agree on certain terms. If a couple can quickly agree on these terms, then they can save time, money, and effort. However, if a couple won’t settle for any compromises, it’s more than likely that they will face hefty divorce costs and lengthy legal battles that will make this experience more difficult than it already is.

That said, it can be challenging to tell how much you should prepare when filing for divorce. What can help, though, is knowing which specific factors can have an impact on what you’re about to spend.

Factors That Can Affect the Cost of Divorce in Pennsylvania

There are several factors that can affect the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania, but these are some you should be aware of:

Court Filing Fees

In every state, including Pennsylvania, courts charge a fee to “file” or record a divorce in its system. On average, Pennsylvania filing fees can amount to around $350, though this varies from one county to another. The type of documents you’ll be filing can also incur additional charges. An example of this is if you’re filing any of the following documents:

  • Equitable division complaint
  • Documents pertaining to the resolution of custody or visitation issues
  • Special relief documents

For those who cannot afford court filing fees, Pennsylvania courts allow you to petition for In Forma Pauperis status. In submitting this document, you must be able to prove that you’re unable to pay court filing fees by including a copy of your income and expenses.

Type of Divorce You’re Filing For

As mentioned, how quickly you can agree to certain terms with your spouse can affect divorce costs. Filing for a mutual consent divorce is, perhaps, the least costly option of all — but how much does a mutual consent divorce cost in PA?

Aside from paying an average of $350 in court filing fees, you will also have to pay your lawyer’s fees, which can differ from one lawyer to another. However, since mutual consent divorces typically mean that you and your spouse have no problems creating a settlement agreement or simply signing the papers to end your marriage, you might not have to hire a legal representative. If you’re both in agreement on issues like child support and custody, division of property, and others, then all you might need are DIY filing instructions from an online service. This can cost $139 on average.

However, if you’re filing for a no-fault divorce, your divorce fees can exceed five figures if you hire a legal representative. No-fault divorce cases can be contested or uncontested, but this category generally means that neither party is accused of commiting any misconduct, such as willful desertion, adultery, bigamy, cruel treatment, etc. Similar to a mutual consent divorce, you can save on no-fault divorce costs through DIY filing, provided you and your spouse can settle your disputes.

Custody Battles

Custody battles are one of the more costly aspects of divorce. This is because aside from hiring a lawyer, you will need child custody evaluators who may charge up to $10,000 or more. Child custody evaluators will make court testimonies based on their findings of factors that may influence custody decisions, such as talking to the child and inspecting the overall situation of the family.

Marital Assets and Debts

Marital properties like real estate, retirement accounts, personal property, and debts will also need the additional services of a real estate appraiser, financial analyst, or forensic accountant. These experts are necessary if you and your spouse cannot divide these assets in a way that would be acceptable to both parties. Professional fees can vary, but you should expect to pay thousands regardless of how many assets you need to have appraised.

The Attorney You Hire

The attorney you hire will, of course, have a substantial impact on your expenses — so how much does a divorce lawyer cost in PA?

Average figures for Pennsylvania divorce lawyers point to around $250 to $350 if they charge on an hourly basis. However, costs can still go up depending on:

  • How complicated your case is
  • The lawyer’s experience and level of expertise
  • The amount of paperwork that needs to be created, reviewed and filed

As an alternative, a divorce lawyer may charge you a basic retainer fee, which is similar to a flat rate to get the divorce action to commence. You may be wondering: “What is the average retainer fee for a divorce lawyer in Pennsylvania?” This can be about $3,500, but this is also subject to change depending on the lawyer.

Is It Worth It to Hire a Lawyer?

While the DIY route may seem like a faster, more cost-effective solution for couples filing for divorce, keep in mind that missing court deadlines and filing the wrong documents can cause the process to start all over. With an experienced lawyer by your side, you can gain guidance with filing timely and correct documents, and you will have a knowledgeable ally who can help make your divorce as pain-free as possible. This way, you will get a fair share of what you’re due, and the case can be handled more efficiently.

Don’t just settle for the cheapest or the first lawyer you come across. If you truly want to get your money’s worth, work with the Law Offices of Paul Brownstein. With over 50 years of legal experience, this firm can help you get through your divorce, so you can focus on the healing you need.