Divorce can be a costly process, but it doesn't have to be. If both parties agree on all of the important issues, known as an uncontested divorce, you can keep costs relatively low. Divorce filing rates in California are relatively low, and what becomes expensive is paying divorce lawyers and the court for your time if you and your spouse can't reach an agreement on your own. Usually, the later you come to an agreement, the more you pay. Some states require an attempt at mediation before going to court in certain circumstances, while others require it for almost all divorces.
Not all divorces lend themselves to mediation or the collaborative process, however, the costs of litigating a divorce remain a significant barrier to some couples being able to legally end their marriage. Although many couples can go through a divorce without hiring an attorney, there are some circumstances where a divorce lawyer is necessary or strongly recommended. That means that even if you agree on everything and give your paperwork to the court and the judge approves your divorce in a short time, it takes six months from the day the case began before the divorce can be made official. For example, a divorce involving controversial issues such as division of property, child custody and support, and spousal support that requires litigation will be much more expensive than a divorce without any contested issues resolved out of court. Divorce terms often carry several types of legally binding expenses that are not costs of the legal process itself or soft costs of life after divorce.
However, sometimes paying for the help of a lawyer is more cost-effective than leaving money on the table during a divorce or making a costly mistake. As a legal matter, the divorce still needs to be filed with the court and the judge must issue a judgment, and many people still hire lawyers to help with this process. In general (but not always), this would mean that the judge would grant you a divorce based on what you requested in your divorce petition. Many courts offer free divorce packages in person (or online); others have self-help centers where you can collect the necessary forms to file for divorce and instructions for filing them. And in some states, you and your spouse can save on these fees by filing for divorce together if you have already reached an agreement on all the issues of your divorce.
Hell has no rage like a divorcing spouse, and if your ex gets aggressive, you'll need an aggressive divorce law expert. For example, you could pay a lawyer a fixed fee to review your divorce agreement or attend a hearing with you. However, collaborative divorce is more expensive than divorce mediation because that help will come from more than one professional. To keep costs low during a divorce, it's important to try to reach an agreement with your spouse as soon as possible. If both parties are willing to negotiate in good faith and come to an agreement on all issues without going to court, then it's possible to keep costs low. Additionally, it's important to research free resources available in your state such as self-help centers or free legal advice clinics.
Finally, if you do need legal help during your divorce proceedings, consider hiring an attorney who offers flat fees or limited scope services.