How Much Does a Divorce Cost in California? [Updated 2024]

  • David Goldberg,
  •   Divorce

Just as nobody plans for a divorce to interrupt their lives, there is not always a clear view of how the divorce process will go. Beyond the time it will take to determine and go through the various divisions, proposals, and other processes, it is impossible to know the amount of time and work required to finalize a specific divorce. Even if you and your spouse believe that there won’t be many disputes, it’s still in the interest of yourself and your family to seek out a California divorce lawyer.

How Much Does A Divorce Cost In California?

Typical Costs of Different Divorce Approaches in California

There are several methods of divorce in California, and each type will cost a different amount:

Summary Dissolution

This divorce option is for qualifying marriages. The primary requirements are that the marriage lasted less than five years and that neither spouse is pregnant or has children, including any from a previous relationship. In this instance, a divorce costs roughly the amount of the divorce filing expenses, which ranges from $435 to $450.

Uncontested Divorce

If the individuals don’t require their divorce to be carried out in a court setting, or they don’t qualify for a summary dissolution but do agree to an uncontested divorce, the divorce will be cheaper than extended litigation. It can depend on how complex the divorce case is and how much time it requires, but an average uncontested divorce costs around $1,500.

Divorce Mediation

Divorce expenses will be less costly if the spouses decide to mediate, settling the case outside of court. This entails hiring an attorney to oversee the divisions of property, child custody, etc. Upon reaching an agreement, the mediator will draft a written agreement to be signed by the spouses and sent to the court, where it can be approved by a judge.

Costs can range from a $150-$250 hourly rate for a court-appointed or non-attorney mediator or $200-$1,000 per hour of mediation with a private mediator, who is usually an attorney.

A mediated divorce can cost $3,000-$8,000 in total if the divorce is after a relatively short marriage (five to nine years) and there are either young or no children. Increases in costs can occur if there are disagreements over child custody, spousal support, and what constitutes community property in the marriage.

Additionally, if the marriage lasted a decade or more or has a shared business and/or separate property claims, mediation costs can rise to $7,500-$25,000+. Mediation is also naturally more expensive in complex or high-asset divorces.

Contested Divorce

When divorce proceedings are taken to court due to numerous or frequent disagreements between the two parties, it is considered a contested divorce. This option will include court fees and attorney fees, which can vary depending on how many issues the lawyer needs to help the two parties settle on and how long that might take.

A divorce in Orange County, California, ranges from $5,000-$15,000, and the average attorney cost is $400 an hour. When a divorce has little to no litigation, the total costs could be as low as $3,600-$6,000. If child custody is a factor in the divorce, attorney costs for that range from $800-$1,600, but it can be as much as $2,000-$4,000 if the issue is discussed at length.

If child or spousal support needs to be calculated or contested, the cost for this portion of the total ranges from $1,200-$2,000 or $2,000-$4,000 if negotiations are drawn out. An additional $1,600-$2,400 may be factored in if dividing assets and debts need to be discussed and negotiated.

High-Asset or Complex Divorce

This approach is typically for spouses who have shared marital property with values in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. These individuals may own multiple properties, are in business together, or have a large wage disparage. Usually, this is only necessary when the disputed amount of money is significant, and thus, divorce expenses can range greatly.


Q: What Is the Five-Year Rule for Divorce in California?

A: If the domestic partnership/marriage was more than five years, standard divorce options apply. If it lasted for less than five years, summary dissolution may be a choice if other qualifying factors are met:

  • No children
  • Not pregnant
  • No ownership of property or renting of property other than the current residence (no one-year leases or buying option)
  • No more than $47,000-$53,000 (excluding cars) of separate or shared property
  • Less than $6,000-$7,000 (excluding car loans) in debt since marriage
  • Completely opting out of spousal support

Q: How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce If Both Parties Agree in California?

A: The divorce qualifies for summary dissolution if you’ve been married for less than five years and neither party has children/is pregnant. The only costs would be for the filing of the joint petition for dissolution ($435-$450).

If you don’t qualify but both parties are in agreement, deeming it an uncontested divorce, costs are potentially around $1,500. The petition fee remains, and an additional custody/visitation fee applies if you have children; the Request for Order can cost $90, although this frequently changes.

Q: What Is the Cheapest Way to File for Divorce in California?

A: If there are disagreements between spouses, whether that involves the choice to divorce in general or discrepancies over property division or child custody, for example, the divorce will either be contested in court or go to mediation, which is typically cheaper.

The divorce mediation process can range from $3,000-$8,000 depending on the mediator’s hourly rate and how long it takes to reach a settlement. For a more complex divorce (ex., a decade or longer in business together), mediation prices can range from $7,500-$25,000.

Q: How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce in California if Both Parties Agree?

A: It takes at least six months to finalize a divorce, which is the mandatory waiting period after you file for divorce. It’s in place in case divorcing couples reconcile or resolve their issues, rendering the legal separation unnecessary. Even if the court makes a final judgment for your case prior to the end of the waiting period, the marriage is still valid until the six months are completed.

Hire a Divorce Attorney Who Is Ready to Protect Your Interests

Whether you don’t know what divorce method to proceed with or need an attorney knowledgeable about family law, child custody, and child support, reach out to The Goldberg Legal Group. Experienced, skilled legal counsel is an important resource, as your qualified attorney can provide you with a smoother, more satisfactory divorce experience.