Every situation is unique, but currently the average cost of divorce in Washington is roughly between $11,000-$12,000 unless you have children, and then the average cost of divorce is $16,000.

Changing the legal status of a relationship always involves more than the people in the relationship itself. While getting married is relatively simple and inexpensive, divorce is often the opposite.

If you haven’t been through divorce before, you may be surprised at the numerous line items that add up to your final bill.

From lawyer fees to court costs to more long-term expenses, it can be difficult to keep it all straight, especially during this kind of family transition.

This article will dig into Washington’s average divorce costs and how they compare to national dollar amounts. We’ll also explore how working with an experienced divorce attorney can bring security and peace of mind as you navigate the divorce process.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost?

No one magic formula can determine the cost of a specific divorce case. Attorneys charge based on their experience, status within the firm, location, reputation, and how involved they’ll be in a case.

Beyond lawyers’ fees, divorcing couples often have to pay fees to the court for filing for divorce in the first place. These costs also depend on the specifics of your case.

That said, data from family law attorneys and couples who’ve been through divorce provides a sense of hourly rates and final costs.

Martindale-Nolo research on divorce in the state of Washington gives us a glimpse into dollar amounts and the factors that influence them. We’ll go into more detail on that data soon, but first a word on contested versus uncontested divorces next.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

A major factor impacting the complexity, duration, and cost of a case is whether or not it’s contested.

Uncontested does not simply mean that both parties agree to the divorce. It means they agree to all terms and arrangements before even starting the process. Since there’s nothing to debate, the divorce process is relatively simple.

Contested, on the other hand, means the couple needs help from the legal and court systems to reach arrangements on finances, property, children, and anything else they might share.

Typically, both parties care a great deal about these aspects, and coming to a consensus can take a long time.

For example, a divorcing couple with no children, a rental home, and two similar incomes won’t likely need much help figuring out how to separate their lives. Even if they share a savings account, or list each other as beneficiaries on retirement accounts, they can probably reach an agreement on their own.

But for a couple with one person making double the other’s income, a home they own, children, and perhaps shared investments, the process is going to be more complex. That doesn’t mean they can’t reach an agreement on their own, but it will be harder.

Uncontested divorce is, generally, significantly less expensive than contested divorce.

However, for couples facing difficult decisions about their assets, children, and future, the financial costs are often well worth the trouble it saves down the road.

Washington Divorce Cost Data

More than two-thirds of the people surveyed in the Martindale-Nolo research hired a family attorney for their divorce case, and the bulk of their costs were the attorney fees.

You can look at that cost in two ways: Hourly rates and overall costs.

Some couples might only need a few hours of consultation and guidance. Others may need months of service as they work through mediation and trial.

On average in the state of Washington:

  • Hourly attorney rates range from $260 to $300.
  • Total attorney costs range from $11,000 to $12,000.

Understand that a few expensive divorces can skew that total cost higher.

Even if you do hire an attorney, your total bill could be far lower than $10,000. However, you will have costs outside of the lawyer, such as the filing fee, which can be around $300 on its own.

As far as which one of you pays, it depends on the personal services you incur, as well as one person’s level of need versus the other person’s ability to pay.

Contrasted with Nolo’s national divorce cost data, Washington isn’t terribly different from the rest of the country, where th e average hourly rate for divorce lawyers is $270. Washington certainly has areas where rates are higher than others, though we still aren’t as expensive as places like New York and California.

Large and coastal cities usually see higher rates, while small and rural areas usually see lower rates.

Full-Scope Representation from a Family Law Attorney

The data on Washington divorce costs focuses on full-scope representation. This means an attorney is hired to take on all tasks associated with the divorce, rather than just a few specific things.

Clients are much more likely to opt for full-scope representation than one or two tasks, such as reviewing a custody agreement.

Full-scope representation is going to cost more, but it also reduces the chances for important steps and details to be missed.

Working with an experienced, knowledgeable divorce lawyer, who probably maintains local networks with other experts and services, means you don’t have to let the divorce take over your life.

You can focus on a healthy transition for your family while the professionals handle the red tape.

How Disputes Impact Washington Divorce Costs

As we said, contested divorce is almost always more complex and costly than uncontested divorce.

Although a couple could disagree over just about anything in their settlement agreement, from money to throw pillows, certain disputes are more common and likely to drive up costs.

If you and your spouse want legal help with the following types of disputes, know that the divorce may cost you more:

  • Child custody: Which parent will have the children and when, and how much control each parent has over important decisions.
  • Asset and debt division: Homes, investments, vacation property, vehicles, student loans, mortgages, credit card debt, and much more.
  • Alimony: Payments from one spouse to the other, during and after divorce, to help them pay bills and maintain their lives.

Your attorney will need to spend much more time on a case with disputes, specifically on the following:

  • Discovery: Collecting financial documents and other relevant materials.
  • Depositions: A form of testimony, where your spouse’s lawyer asks you questions.
  • Mediation: A neutral third party helps you work out disagreements (lawyer may or may not be present).
  • Settlement agreement: Final, formal agreement after negotiation.
  • Divorce trial: Formal court proceedings if mediation and negotiation don’t work.

If you choose to hire a divorce lawyer, the financial costs of separating your lives will be higher.

For many couples, the peace of mind is well worth the money. Of course, not everyone chooses to work with an attorney.

How Much Is a Divorce Without a Lawyer?

Some couples conduct their entire divorce without the help of an attorney. While this is an option for anyone, we’d only recommend it for the absolute simplest of cases.

If you don’t share any children, property, debts, or investments and you’ve kept your money separate, the formal divorce process should be quite simple.

People in Washington have managed their own divorces for less than $500 because they only have to pay court fees.

However, if your divorce involves anything more than the most basic process, prepare to pay for:

  • Filing fees and forms.
  • Courtroom expenses.
  • Serving the papers.

If disputes arise, you may have to pay for:

  • Meditation to help you reach consensus.
  • Experts to evaluate shared property and business.
  • Child custody evaluations.
  • Financial and tax advisors.
  • Expert witnesses.

Specific costs will vary by where you are in the state and your particular situation, but know that these individual costs will quickly add up.

And without the help of a lawyer, you may wind up paying more than you should for them.

If you’re considering a DIY divorce in Washington, more information on court forms and procedures is available.

So, how much is a divorce, really?

According to Nolo, the national average for how much a divorce costs without lawyer expenses is $1,600 (without significant dispute).

The cost of private mediation alone usually falls between $3,000 and $8,000.

In Washington, if you live in areas like Seattle or Spokane, the costs may be significantly higher

Other Divorce Costs in Washington

In addition to lawyer and court fees, you always run the risk of costs for mediators, advisors, and other experts.

Sometimes things are uncovered during discovery and negotiation that bring unanticipated challenges; you might end up needing services you didn’t expect.

Again, while you might be able to secure a divorce faster without these steps, the long term impacts on your finances and family, especially children, could become a serious problem (think child support and alimony arrangements).

When you have an experienced family attorney in your corner, they’ll connect you with these services efficiently, all the while keeping up with the legwork of the rest of your case.

Soft Costs of Divorce

Once you’ve added up attorney’s fees, court costs, and services to address disputes, you should think about the more long term costs. So-called “soft costs” include anything you spend to rebuild your life.

For example, you might need to set up a new phone plan or put a deposit down on a new apartment.

Perhaps you and your children would benefit from therapy as individuals or a family. Then there’s the price tag on everything you no longer own, from small kitchen appliances to a reliable vehicle.

Envision Family Law Offers Full and Fair Divorce Representation

Divorce is not cheap, and the truth is that the bulk of the costs usually go to your lawyer’s fees.

And while you might be tempted to DIY your divorce, the long term financial and emotional costs of separating your life from your former spouse’s can soar when you don’t have the guidance of a legal professional.

Since the 1990’s, Envision Family Law has walked with families like yours through some of their most difficult transitions. We treat every case with compassion, because we understand how important this aspect of the experience is to your overall wellbeing.

If you’d like to get started with a free consultation, call or text us at (888) 211-7814 or use the easy contact form on our website. We look forward to working with you!