To learn about the cost and duration of divorce without children, we recently surveyed our readers. Here’s what we found out.
The Cost of Divorce Without Children
Kids or not, divorce is costly. Spouses spent an average of $12,500 to resolve their divorce without children cases, including $9,200 on attorney’s fees. (Compare these numbers to divorces where minor children are involved, where the average total cost was $19,300 and the average attorney fees were $16,200.)
It should come as no surprise that cases making it to trial are more expensive than cases that don't. Cases that go to trial incur many more hours of an attorney's time (typically from 12 to 25 more hours, according to veteran divorce attorney Arthur Abelson), and court fees and possibly expert witness fees quickly increase when you go to court. On average, a divorce without children that went all the way to trial cost $23,500, including $16,500 in attorney fees.
Fortunately, spouses divorcing without minor children were able to settle their issues without going to trial 74% of the time. Sometimes, this happens in settlement talks or a mediation session; other times it’s on the courthouse steps, just moments before trial is set to start. On average, a divorce without children that settled before trial cost $7,100, including $6,000 in attorney fees.
The Waiting Game: How Long Divorce Takes When Children Aren't Involved
Couples without kids shouldn't expect their divorce to go quickly. Our survey found that divorcing couples without children took an average of 10.6 months to resolve their cases. Of course, divorce takes much longer when the spouses have to go to trial, because they're at the mercy of over-crowded court calendars, attorney schedules, and possibly, the other spouse's delay tactics. It also takes many months to prepare for trial, which requires your attorney to conduct formal discovery (including live depositions and written document requests), analyze evidence (with the help of experts like forensic accountants or child custody experts), and research and write legal motions and briefs.
Couples who took their property and alimony issues to trial had to wait an average of 16.8 months for resolution, while those who were able to settle all of their issues without a trial were done in about 8.8 months. While settling a case makes for a much shorter divorce, very few of our readers had a divorce completed in less than six months due to the time it takes file paperwork with the court, make financial disclosures, negotiate and write a settlement agreement, and submit a request for and receive approval from a local judge.
Most couples without children have to deal with splitting up assets as part of their divorce. There were issues related to property division in 84% of the divorce without children cases in our survey. In most of these cases, the spouses also needed to divide their debts fairly; 71% of the cases involving property division also included debt division.
Property and debt division disputes commonly involve the home (including the equity and remaining mortgage debt), investment and retirement accounts, cars, savings accounts, credit card debts, and personal property acquired during the marriage.
In the average divorce without kids involving a dispute over property and debt division, typical costs for one spouse, including attorney's fees and additional costs, were $8,200, with an average of $7,300 in attorney’s fees. (When property division was the only issue, the average total costs were $5,000 and amount spent on attorney’s fees was $3,900.)
These property and debt division issues took an average of 10.9 months to resolve. Those spouses who were able to settle their property and debt issues without a trial were done in 9.3 months, while those who went to trial had to wait 15.3 months for a resolution.
Divorces Involving Both Alimony and Property Division Issues
Almost half of spouses without kids have both alimony and property division issues in their divorce. Costs jump when you look at the average cost for these divorces, since multiples issues take more of your attorney's time and other costs are higher given that financial and vocational analyses are involved. The average total cost for a divorce with both property and alimony issues was $17,700, with $13,300 in attorney fees.
These divorces took an average of 12 months to resolve. Spouses who were able to settle their property and alimony issues without a trial were done in 10.4 months, while those who went to trial had to wait 15.5 months for a resolution.
Some of the divorcing couples we surveyed never had children together, but many had adult children who no longer required custody or child support arrangements -- over 70% of the couples we surveyed were over 45 years old. See our article on empty nest divorce for how much divorce costs and how long it takes for these "empty nesters" whose children had moved out.