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How Much Does a Typical Divorce Cost?

Often, people going through a divorce for the first time will inquire about the cost of a divorce. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Divorces run the spectrum of relatively cheap to very expensive, depending on a number of key factors involved in your case.

In this article, we’ll discuss your options and give you insight into how to keep your divorce costs down.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

In Rhode Island, there are two types of divorces: contested vs. uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree that the marriage is unsustainable and you agree to the terms of the divorce.

Generally, if the terms of an uncontested divorce are simple, such as splitting everything 50/50, your overall cost will be lower. However, if you have significant assets including businesses, these assets will need to be evaluated. The more complex your marital estate is the more time and attention your case will require. Cases that are time intensive typically have a higher overall cost.

A contested divorce happens when you or your spouse do not agree on the terms of the divorce and one party might even accuse the other of wrongdoing. A contested divorce often involves litigation, time and research and is more expensive than an uncontested divorce.

Divorces involving significant assets or contentious accusations are more expensive. These cases may require a trial that potentially involves expert testimony, witnesses and other means of proving the case. Disagreements on custody, placement, and visitation, will also increase the overall cost of your divorce.

Uncontested Hearing vs. a Trial

If the parties can come to an agreement, whether the agreement comes immediately or after months of litigation, the court will allow the hearing to proceed as an uncontested matter.

At an uncontested hearing, the parties are generally asked leading questions by their attorneys in order to elicit the facts that establish jurisdiction and the basis for their agreement, as well as the terms of the agreement. At the end of the hearing, the judge adopts the terms of the agreement as presented by the attorneys.

A trial is a much more formal event where the attorneys have to present their cases and evidence and upon the conclusion of the trial, the judge decides the terms of the divorce.


Contrary to popular belief, an uncontested case is not the same as mediation. Mediation is one way to resolve the issues of the parties with the assistance of a neutral third-party.

In some cases, a divorce may begin in mediation and end up in litigation, because both spouses can’t agree on the terms. In other cases, the mediation is successful and results in an uncontested hearing.

Mediated divorces are generally less expensive than litigated divorces. They take less time and cost less money. But mediation isn’t appropriate for all divorces.

Asset Division and the Cost of Divorce

Divorce is at its most complicated when both spouses own a business or property together. Their assets and businesses must be appraised in order to come up with an equitable way to divide their property. This is known as valuation.

First, however, a determination must be made as to what is considered the personal property of each spouse and what is considered marital property. With some exceptions, any property that was acquired or accumulated value during the marriage is the property of the marriage.

For instance, let’s say that one spouse owned a business that could be valued at $100,000 at the time the marriage began but is now valued at $500,000. The $100,000 that the business was worth at the time of the marriage belongs to the spouse who owned it before the marriage began. The $400,000, however, would be considered marital property. This is true even with assets such as real estate and assets such as IRAs and 401k accounts.

How Much Will My Divorce Cost?

When considering your divorce, you have to think of two costs: the financial burden associated with dividing your estate and assets with your ex-spouse and the legal fees associated with your divorce.

An experienced lawyer is one of the best ways to minimize the financial burden associated with your divorce. While the best lawyers aren’t cheap, they will save you money in the long-term, when it comes to dividing your marital estate.

Choose a Skilled Rhode Island Family Law Firm

At Kirshenbaum Law Associates, we take a team approach to representing your interests and assets during a divorce. For more information, please feel free to call us at 401-467-5300 or contact us online.