Minnesota's Family Law Blog

How Much Does A Divorce Cost?

whimsical look at how much a divorce actually costs.
a Divorce costs HOW MUCH!?

A Divorce Is Like Buying A Car (sort of)

UPDATED: February, 2024

Let’s take a deep dive into the world of what a divorce costs, shall we? I like to tell stories, so let’s start with you. Imagine starting out on a trip to buy a car. How much will that car cost?  That depends on a lot of things, do you want a Ferrari? A Corvette?

Maybe you say, wait, no, no, Jason, I just want a truck!  Ok, a truck it is! Will that truck be a 10-year-old Dodge Ram, with some rust around the wheel wells with close to 100,000 miles? or is it going to be a fully loaded Denali that is close to costing 100K!?

You see it all depends in that case on what you want, but in the divorce world only part of the cost depends on what you wish to I’m afraid.

My example  shows that your divorce might be a simple default divorce that just is really filling out paperwork (that 10-year-old Dode Ram!) to a complex farm divorce that has 5 experts and appraisers involved (Nice looking Denali!).

Where do you start to start on figuring out the cost of your divorce?  I always like to ask, what will you be fighting about with your ex?  The typical areas I see people fight in a divorce are:

Once you have an idea about what you’ll be arguing about your lawyer should be able to have some rough ideas on the fight and what it might cost (including hiring experts). But, it will take some time to really think about what you’ll be fighting about with your spouse and remember it all starts with your plan!.

You Spouse Can Cause A Lot of The Cost

Unfortunately, if your spouse is difficult to deal with and wants to fight about everything, that can raise the cost a lot. I mean A LOT!

Now, the question here is often how nasty is your spouse going to be, and, just as importantly, what can you do to raise the cost of your divorce?

A few exampls are, if they demand appraising everything, you’ll need to hire experts to do this, and it’s not cheap!  

Formal discovery can add to the cost, and the length and type of the discovery is something that can be adjusted based on how aggressive the other side wants to be.

And what can often cause the biggest increase in the cost of a divorce is if your spouse just can’t make his mind up.  If they can’t decide what they want or will accept, oftentimes that means the divorce will go down to wire, and that means the morning of trial!  This is expensive because you need to be prepared for the trial even if they don’t go to trial!

Even the simple act of them dragging their feet can cause motions, delays, more letters to the other lawyer, and generally just a lot more work, and remember, lawyers charge by the hour!

Your spouse’s Lawyer Can Raise The Cost Of A Divorce!

Believe it or not there are some shady lawyers out there! (I know who would have thought that right?!).  But some lawyers might not have your best interest in mind and are trying to only line their pocketbooks.

First, I’d say, in my experience of doing divorces for about a quarter century, I would estimate that about 10% of divorce lawyers are like this.  This means your spouse has about a 1 in 10 chance of hiring them.

Can you do anything to prevent this? Generally not, but I would say one thing can be done, and that is if you are reasonable and you, in a respectful manner, try and remind your spouse how much money their lawyer costs both of you; it might help them understand.

You might ask what the lawyer can do to increase the cost of your divorce. Filing motions, doing that formal discovery I talked about earlier, asking for several rounds of mediation, and generally just being difficult!

Finally, you might be the reason that raises your divorce cost!!

WHAT? Yes, it’s true.  The biggest things I see in terms of wasting costs are:

  • Consistently changing your mind and strategy
  • Having no idea what you want out of the divorce
  • Not responding to your lawyer or paralegal’s questions, calls, and emails
  • Not being organized

Jumping to the last one, lack of organization is probably the biggest way you can either save money or lose money in your divorce.  When your lawyer needs information or the court needs information you need first to gather it then give it your lawyer in an organized manner! 

I once had a man drop off a refrigerator crisper drawer full of unorganized papers and had me sort through them to get the information I needed.  It took nearly three hours to organize it and figure out what I needed, and he wasted hundreds of dollars since he could done it one night at the kitchen table for free!

Average Cost of Divorce (with the above disclaimers)

Ok, ok, you’re still reading so I’ll try and help and give you a range of what a divorce actually costs in terms of dollars in Minnesota.

A default divorce, where almost everything is figured out and agreed to, and we need to do the paperwork and go to court, in 2024 dollars, I would estimate the average price range between $1,000 and $2,500.  This makes a lot of assumptions of course.

For a “normal” divorce, with some fighting, maybe the kids or who get the house, with an average income, then you’re looking at between $3,000-$7,500 in fees and costs.

For a high-conflict, nasty divorce, a range of between $10,000- $20,000 is what I typically see. I’d say this can be anything from having a crazy spouse to a nasty alimony fight to even just a bad custody battle!

Finally, a high-net-worth (think farmers or business folks), a very nasty custody battle, and you throw on lawyers and who only want to fight;  I’m seeing $50,000 -$100,000 in legal fees!

Most people would rather spend that money on their family or themselves than pay a divorce lawyer, so it’s important to keep in mind the costs!

Emotional Costs

I’m not a sensitive sort of man.  I’m a divorce lawyer, often called a cold-blooded shark in a suit, but I do think people need to understand the emotional costs of a nasty divorce.

If your goal is to try and make sure your wife never sees the kids, is living in a box, and is eating Raman noodles, you can try and do that, but the fight is going to take a huge emotional toll not only on her, but on you as well!

I’m talking about a divorce being the last thing you think about when you go to sleep, and the first thing you think about when you wake up.  So ask yourself if that is really worth it. Do you want to dedicate so much of your time and energy (forget money for a minute) to really fight like that?


When you are thinking about the cost of divorce, it’s hard to give you that straightforward price tag it’s hard to do. The price range of what a divorce costs is vast, often stretching far beyond the initial estimates.

My final bit of advice, get organized, get a plan and get a good lawyer!

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com will contain knowledgeable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice.

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