How to Pay for a Divorce: 5 Expert Tips to Keep Your Costs Down

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

a couple is sitting on separate benches looking in different directions

Deciding to end your marriage is always difficult, even if you both know that it’s time to move on. Unfortunately, while you’re dealing with the emotional ramifications of this process, you’ll also have to figure out how to pay for a divorce.

“Divorce can be a very expensive venture,” warned Raymond Hekmat, a family law attorney at Hekmat Law & Mediation APC in California.

Just how expensive? According to GOBankingRates, the average cost to file for divorce in the U.S. is $215 and the average fee for a divorce attorney totals $10,180.

If you’re wondering how to pay for a divorce when it costs so much, here are five ways to help, along with tips to make a divorce affordable.

1. Arrange a payment plan with your attorney

While attorney fees can be high, you might not need to pay the entire cost upfront.

“If a client can pay a full retainer, I sometimes allow payments,” said Shaolaine Loving, a family law attorney at Loving Law Ltd. in Las Vegas.

A retainer is an initial payment that’s usually several thousand dollars. Once you’ve paid your initial retainer, attorneys can structure payment plans to meet client needs.

Discuss maximum monthly payments and payment timelines. Also, ask if there’s a transaction fee, if you’ll owe interest, and how much the interest would be.

2. Pay with marital funds or ask the court to order your spouse to pay fees

It’s especially difficult to pay for a divorce if your income is lower than your spouse’s or you aren’t earning income. One option is to pay divorce costs out of shared marital assets, such as joint bank accounts.

“If a couple has the funds, they’ll pay the initial retainer and subsequent fees from marital money,” said Gabriella Dylan Formosa, a family law attorney at Greenblatt Law LLC in New York. “This allows both spouses to pay an attorney even if one of the spouses has historically been the primary wage earner.”

Unfortunately, not every couple has enough shared marital assets. In these situations, if one spouse can afford a lawyer and the other can’t, there’s a solution.

“When one spouse controls most of the income and assets, request an order from the judge freeing up assets to pay for your legal fees, or even requiring your spouse to pay fees directly,” advised Andrew Winters, a family law attorney at Cohen & Winters in New Hampshire.

The judge could order shared property be sold to make money available to pay divorce costs. A higher-earning spouse could also be ordered to use their income to pay for the lower earner.

“See if you can get a court order for your spouse to pay,” Loving said. Your attorney will help petition the court.

3. Borrow money from family

Borrowing money from loved ones is another solution. Winters recommended asking for a loan even if you could cover costs from savings.

“The best option is if a third party, such as a parent, can pay for the divorce,” Winters said. “That gives your spouse the least amount of knowledge or control over your legal fees. If you pay from savings or a credit card, mandatory financial disclosures allow your spouse to know exactly how much you’re paying, and even object if they believe the fees are unreasonable.”

If you borrow, make sure your loved one understands legal fees could be unpredictable. Discuss the maximum they’d be willing to lend, when they’ll expect to be repaid, and whether they’ll charge interest. Put your agreement in writing so that there’s no argument.

4. Use a personal loan

Many people are uncomfortable borrowing from loved ones and don’t have savings, but they still need to get a divorce. If this sounds like you, look into a personal loan.

“Taking out a loan is one way to get everything paid,” suggested Michelle T. Dellino, managing attorney at Dellino Law Group, a family law firm in Seattle.

Make sure the loan has a large enough limit to fund all legal costs. Shop around for a personal loan and compare interest rates, origination fees, and repayment terms.

Before you borrow, estimate what your monthly payments will be and ensure the loan will be affordable after your divorce, especially if you’ll be on a lower budget without your spouse’s income.

5. Pay with a credit card

A final option is to charge your divorce. “We see more and more clients paying by credit card each year,” said Elysa Greenblatt, a divorce attorney at Greenblatt Law.

If you only have joint credit cards, you could still use the card to pay. “For a joint credit card, the judge will hold you both accountable for the charges until the divorce is final, and then the judge can allocate the amount of lawyer fees for either party to pay,” Dellino said.

Unfortunately, credit card interest rates are often high. If charging your divorce on a credit card is your only option, compare credit card interest rates to find the lowest possible rate and pay off the debt ASAP to avoid more costs.

Money-saving tips make it easier to figure out how to pay for a divorce

While there’s no escaping the fact that divorces cost money, figuring out how to pay for a divorce is easier if you’re smart about the process.

  • Opt for an uncontested divorce: “The easiest and most obvious way to keep divorce costs down would be to start with an uncontested divorce,” Loving said. An uncontested divorce is one in which you and your spouse agree on key issues such as custody and property division so that you don’t have to pay court fees and legal costs of litigation.
  • Minimize court appearances: “A court appearance that lasts 15 minutes can cost thousands of dollars between attorney travel time and waiting for your case to be called,” Formosa said. The more issues in which you can find a compromise, the less time you’ll spend in court.
  • Don’t use your divorce to punish your spouse: “I’m continuously amazed by the needless fighting over petty points,” Winters said. If you drag out your divorce by fighting over minor issues, the process will cost more.
  • Be smart about mediation: “Mediation can help parties stay out of court,” Hekmat said. But Formosa warned mediation isn’t always a low-cost alternative because if you and your spouse won’t agree, you’ll have to start the process again.
  • Ask about unbundled services: With unbundled services, you handle easy tasks but hire an attorney for specific purposes, such as appearing in court. “It ends up being less money out of pocket since you’re only paying for the attorney to do that specific task,” Loving said.
  • Split up your legal work: “When you hire a lawyer, check to see whether there are associates or paralegals at lower rates,” recommended Greenblatt. “Often they can do some of the day-to-day work to keep costs down.”

By making smart and strategic choices about what issues a lawyer handles, and which lawyer helps you, divorce should be much more affordable.

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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal LoansFixed rates from 6.199% APR to 15.365% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.145% APR to 14.685% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of June 15, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.145% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.97% plus 4.175% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply:SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.