The answer is; it depends on a number of factors. Naturally, people seeking divorce desire a level of legal and financial certainty during this difficult process. It is impossible to predict the precise cost of divorce as many factors can increase or decrease the cost of divorce in Pennsylvania.
This article outlines the typical cost of a divorce in Pennsylvania and what factors may affect the price.
Average Cost of a PA Divorce
While precise statistics are elusive, a 2020 news article reported the average cost of a divorce in Pennsylvania is $14,300. The cost increases to $21,500 if the divorce involves children. Because the facts of each case are different, it is important to consult a family law attorney to understand how the facts of your case could affect the cost of your divorce.
The reason it is difficult to predict with accuracy the cost of a divorce is because there are so many factors that impact that question. How complicated is your divorce? Do you, your spouse or both of you own a business? Is alimony appropriate in your case? Will both of you work diligently to move the process forward or will one of you delay the process? There are many other factors to be considered?
Elements Affecting Divorce Costs
Obtaining a divorce can be an emotionally and financially difficult process. Many elements, or issues, can affect the cost of a divorce. Specifically, issues stemming from longer marriages and the relationship between divorcing spouses can potentially increase the cost of a divorce.
Contested vs Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce where both parties agree on the division of assets is the easiest and least expensive type of divorce because both spouses have agreed to all terms of the divorce. Stated simply, there are no issues that require a judicial determination. Contested divorces are more expensive because one or both spouses are unable to agree to one or several issues such as property division or alimony.
Choosing the right attorney for your divorce is critical. Consulting a reputable and knowledgeable divorce attorney can marginally increase the cost of your divorce. This is because many attorneys charge a small consultation fee to cover the cost of an initial case review and to provide legal advice.
The lawyers at Schwartz, Fox and Saltzman do not charge for the first consultations. Many divorce lawyers do.
Civility with Your Spouse
Divorces are inherently contentious matters. However, making a concerted effort to remain civil with your spouse can reduce the cost of your divorce. Maintaining good relations with your spouse means there is a higher likelihood of negotiating the economics of your divorce and thereby avoiding the expense of formal litigation.
Marital Assets & Debt
According to Section 3502 of the Divorce Code Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution jurisdiction which means marital property is divided based on what the Court determines to be fair, not simply an equal distribution. Marital property are assets, e.g., the marital home, retirement accounts, etc., acquired by either spouse during the marriage and other assets. With some exceptions, debts incurred by one or both spouses during the marriage qualify as marital debts that must be classified and divided.
Many marriages feature spouses with unequal earning power. If you are the primary income earner in your marriage, your spouse may seek alimony as part of the divorce so they can rehabilitate themselves. Alimony is not granted automatically and instead is granted or denied by the court based on 17 factors stated in § 3701(b).
Judges rarely hear division of property matters. Divorce Administrators, also known as Divorce Hearing Officers hear these matters. Judges rarely get involved in the division of assets.
The Lawyer You Choose
Legal fees are nearly unavoidable when you hire an attorney. Experienced attorneys with successful professional reputations typically charge higher fees.
If you expect your divorce will involve several contested issues or complex financial matters, it may be necessary to retain an experienced advocate.
PA Divorce Filing Fees
A filing fee must be paid to the court of the county in which you are filing the divorce case. Each county court has its own filing fee. Filing fees can range from $200 to over $400.00.
Who Pays for Divorce in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, each spouse is typically responsible for their own legal fees. However, pursuant to § 3702, and 3323(c) and (e), a Court has the power to order a spouse to pay a portion of the other spouse’s legal fees while the divorce is pending or as part of the final divorce decree. Specifically, judges evaluate each spouses’ income and other factors to determine if a spouse will share in the other spouse’s counsel fees.
Collaborative Divorce Cost
In 2018, Pennsylvania enacted the Collaborative Law Act which allows spouses to significantly reduce the cost of a divorce. Both spouses sign an agreement to resolve their divorce in a collaborative matter, i.e., avoid formal litigation, and hire attorneys specially trained in collaborative law. A collaborative divorce allows both spouses to negotiate a divorce tailored to their particular circumstances.
Talk with an Experienced PA Divorce Attorney
Proceeding with a divorce will raise several important questions regarding your assets, children, and your future. The experienced divorce attorneys at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman can guide you through this process in a cost-effective manner. To learn about the representation we can provide, contact us today.