There are basic costs that must be paid simply to get the divorce process going in court. In New Jersey, the cost to file a divorce complaint is $300. If the divorce involves shared children and issues of child support, child custody, or parenting time, then the party who files must also pay a $25 fee to take a mandatory parent education class. If the party filing for divorce cannot afford to pay these fees, they can apply for a fee waiver.
In addition to filing fees, the party filing for divorce must pay to have the complaint served on their spouse, and both parties will need to pay nominal costs for filing motions, obtaining postage, and other court matters.
Unless you and your spouse are 100% certain that you agree on all aspects relating to your divorce, and your divorce involves a small set of easy-to-split assets, you will greatly benefit from having a lawyer on your side. Attorney fees vary but typically range between $250 to $350 per hour. High-profile lawyers might charge significantly more. Some attorneys charge a flat fee for a relatively simple divorce or charge by the task rather than by the hour. For more complex divorces or divorces that are hotly contested, you can expect to pay more.
You can reduce costs by taking steps to resolve the divorce quickly and amicably. Mediation, for example, typically costs around $150-$300 per hour but can result in most or all divorce-related issues being resolved in just a few weeks rather than closer to a year or more. If the divorce is strongly contested, for example, if one party is seeking to prove fault in the divorce (abuse, abandonment, etc.) or is trying to contest the validity of a prenuptial agreement, then the parties can expect to incur more fees as the months of legal representation wear on.
Each party is entitled to use marital funds to pay for the divorce. Additionally, one party can file a motion requesting that their attorney fees be paid by the other spouse. A court may order that the party with significantly more income and assets pay the attorney fees of the less wealthy spouse, in order to keep the parties on equal footing for the divorce.
In considering whether to award attorney fees to one spouse, the court will evaluate the financial circumstances of each party as well as the good faith or bad faith behavior of each party before and during the divorce. If a party engages in bad faith behavior by, for example, trying to hide assets or violating court orders, the court is more likely to order that party to pay the attorney fees of the other spouse. The court can order a party to advance fees for litigation costs at the outset of the divorce proceeding or order a party to reimburse the other for costs and fees incurred at the end of the proceeding.
Expert and Consultant Fees
For divorces that are hotly contested or divorces that include complex marital assets, parties might need to retain experts to facilitate the process. You could need to hire a forensic accountant to go through your spouse’s finances and look for any hidden assets. You might need to bring in a child psychology expert to address issues relating to child custody. You may need a real estate appraiser or securities expert to properly value certain types of assets. Expert fees vary, but you can typically expect rates of at least $200-$300 per hour for tasks including reviewing the case, conducting research, drafting reports, sitting through depositions, and testifying in court.
Finally, certain assets require the preparation of particular legal documents in order to be distributed. If either party has a retirement account subject to distribution in the divorce, the court will have to issue a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to the administrator of the retirement asset. Although the QDRO is a court order, it must be prepared by the parties. Typically, a QDRO can now be prepared by a QDRO specialist for around $400-$500 per QDRO (cheaper than in the past when attorneys would prepare the QDROs themselves). Talk to your lawyer about special filings and orders that may be necessary in your case.
Hire A New Jersey Divorce Lawyer You Can Trust
If you’re facing the prospect of divorce in New Jersey or dealing with property division, child support, child custody, or other family law issues, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.