This may come as a shocking revelation, but divorce costs can add up quickly.
There are charges and fees every step of the way. From filing the initial paperwork and hiring an attorney to relevant court costs. Then you have a variety of expenses that continue even after you complete the process.
One of the most common questions we hear is:
How much does it cost to divorce in Oregon?
The short answer is that it often costs quite a bit.
On average, it costs between $11,000-15,000 to end a marriage. A lot of factors go into that number, and it may wind up drastically more or less depending on your specific situation.
Many of the expenses of dissolving your marriage are readily apparent. For example, mentioned hiring a lawyer. That obviously incurs fees. The exact amount, however, depends on the nature of each distinct situation.
A good rule of thumb is that the more you need to with, the more it will cost. Many things influence how you divide assets if you pay spousal support, and more. Common elements that complicate matters include:
- How contentious the split is.
- The length of the marriage.
- Future earning potential.
- The amount of property and assets to divide.
- Owning your own business.
- Whether or not you have kids.
- If you have substantial retirement accounts.
These are just a few of many, many things that play a role.
On the other side of that coin, there are also bound to be payments you don’t see coming. Like fees for responding to motions filed against you. Your tax status changes in the wake of divorce. Your credit score may even take a hit.
Every case is different, but with that in mind, here are some of the costs associated, both obvious and otherwise, you may encounter when seeking a divorce in Oregon.
Related Reading: Dividing a Business in Divorce
Costs During The Divorce Process
Paperwork And Legal Fees
A common refrain is that there is no such thing as a free divorce. No matter how amicable, good-natured, or uncontested a split, there are at least a few fees likely to pop up.
Even for the do-it-yourselfers out there going through an unchallenged split, you face fees. According to the Oregon State Bar Association, each party is currently subject to a $273 filing fee for a divorce or custody case.
Moving forward, there’s the cost of serving your soon-to-be former spouse with divorce papers.
You can hire an outside process server to accomplish this. Depending on what company you use and how difficult it is to find your ex, this may run upward of $50 or more.
If you retain the services of an attorney, they can handle the service. For a fee. There’s a form you can have your spouse sign that indicates the documents have been served. Otherwise, an outside party needs to handle this.
You also face costs related to filing motions, responding to petitions, appearing in court, and more. Basically, every time you have to deal with new paperwork or show up in front of a judge, expect to fork over at least a few dollars.
Related Reading: Pro Se Divorce: When is it the Best Choice?
Divorce is a complicated affair. In most cases, you’re served by enlisting the expertise of an attorney. A professional who knows the ins and out and intricacies of the process will be able to answer your questions and guide you down the path toward an optimal outcome.
That, of course, costs money. And again, how much depends on the case.
There may be an initial consulting charge, likely a flat fee, followed by an hourly rate. Depending on how long and complicated your divorce is, the more issues you and your spouse disagree on, and the more contentious the proceedings, these fees stack up accordingly.
Make sure, right out of the gate, you ask your lawyer to explain their billing practices. Find out what services you get for your money, how they break down the charges, and what you can expect to see on an invoice.
It never hurts to get this sort of thing in writing at the beginning. Though the price may seem high at first, it will likely be well worth the investment in the long run. It often saves people money.
In simple cases, you may be able someone to prepare your paperwork for a flat rate. Many services handle the filing and all the rest. Sometimes this is a lawyer, but it may also be a paralegal or other legal professional. It offers peace of mind that you haven’t made any grievous mistakes trying to do it all yourself. This is, however, only applicable to straightforward situations.
While legal and attorney’s fees are the most apparent costs of divorce, they have an end date. Once your split is final, they will go away, or at least stop accumulating. There are, however, post-divorce financial obligations that, depending on the circumstances, continue long after dissolving the marriage.
Related Reading: How is Debt Divided in Oregon?
Costs After The Divorce Process
If children figure into your divorce, child support may be one of the biggest continuing costs you encounter. Oregon primarily awards child support in cases involving children under the age of 18, though in some instances it lasts longer. These payments provide for the ongoing care and well-being of your kids.
In general, the party with the most overnights with the child receives payments from the other. Still, child support is also often payable even in cases of 50/50 shared custody.
The parent with the greater income also usually covers more of the financial burden of child care, medical bills, and education. The State of Oregon has an online calculator to estimate potential child support payments. While this isn’t a hard-and-fast or official amount, it provides a rough idea of what you may wind up paying.
Related Reading: Calculate Your Own Support Responsibility
While not awarded in every divorce, the court often orders spousal support.
These payments help your former partner meet financial needs following the dissolution of your marriage. Less formulaic than child support, the amount is based on what is “just and equitable” in the given situation.
There are three kinds of spousal support in Oregon: transitional, compensatory, and maintenance.
Shorter in duration, transitional support is, as the name suggests, awarded to aid one spouse in making the switch back to single life. This often helps them obtain education or training to reenter the workforce, or to advance in the employment marketplace. This is most common in briefer marriages.
Less frequent, compensatory support comes into play when one party has contributed a significant amount to the career and earning capacity of the other. It also may occur in settlements where the court awarded one spouse substantially more property. Or, for example, if one spouse worked to support the other through college.
Maintenance support is most common in long-term unions where there’s a great divide between the earning potential of the two parties, one that may never realistically close. It tends to continue for extended periods, oftentimes even indefinitely.
Related Reading: How Does Spousal Support Work In Oregon?
Less Obvious Costs Of Divorce
Up to this point, most of the costs discussed are of the obvious variety. Court fees, attorney’s costs, and child and spousal support. People commonly associate all of these with the end of a marriage.
Moving on to the next phase of your life, you may look to lay fresh, permanent roots. Relocation and setting up a new household, especially if there are children to consider, costs money.
If you and your spouse owned a home or property together, unless an agreement can be reached, these assets may be sold, again. Often this happens quickly and for convenience rather than optimal value.
Losing medical insurance. If your spouse’s health coverage no longer covers you, that’s another situation to deal with. The same goes for changing wills, altering life insurance policies, or any other shared articles and benefits acquired over the course of the marriage.
One unexpected change that catches people off guard is their taxes.
Once you settle the divorce, your filing status looks very different than before. If you have children, your custodial status also impact deductions, payments, incentives, and more.
It’s also even possible for your credit score to take a hit. After your divorce, your former spouse’s future credit shouldn’t impact your own. Moving forward, you apply for credit cards, loans, and more individually.
If you still have existing shared debts, however, that influences the standing of your credit file.
Related Reading: Oregon; Community Property or Equitable Distribution?
For example, divorce doesn’t alter pre-existing contracts and agreements with a third party that you and your spouse entered into while married, like a mortgage.
If the court assigns your former spouse to pay a joint debt, in a perfect world, that’s precisely what happens. We don’t always live in an ideal world, however.
If your ex neglects to make these payments, or simply isn’t able to, it negatively reflects on you. When it gets bad enough, creditors may come after you. You may even face legal action.
Hopefully, there’s a strategy in place for dealing with joint debts and the division of property. Still, it never hurts to keep a close eye on your credit score and stay abreast of the situation.
Related Reading: Common Financial Mistakes in Divorce
What Else Affects The Cost of Divorce?
As we’ve shown, many things impact the ultimate financial cost of divorce. And like most things with ending a marriage, it varies from one case to the next. No two marriages are the same. Consequently, neither are any two divorces. Unique elements will always impact some and not others.
Conflict Between Spouses
The first factor that often inflates the cost of divorce is conflict. The way conflict impacts cost is pretty simple: the more conflict you have, the longer it takes, and the more expensive your divorce becomes. If you and your soon-to-be ex fight over every issue, resolution takes time. And that takes money.
Refusing to Compromise
Whether you want to hear it or not, divorce takes compromise. Refuse to compromise, and the cost of divorce tends to skyrocket.
The only type of divorce that doesn’t require at least some compromise is a default judgment. That’s when your ex fails to take action and essentially forfeits the case.
It’s vital to go into the divorce process with a clear idea of where you’re willing to compromise, and where you aren’t. Knowing what is and isn’t open for negotiation helps create a strategy.
We’ve watched people rack up massive fees fighting about who gets the most mundane, unimportant items. Sure, you have a really nice set of pots and pans, but maybe consider buying new ones instead of paying your lawyer for hours arguing about who gets them. It’s important to protect what matters most to you, but also to know what’s not worth the effort.
If you can’t compromise on anything, you’re most likely headed to trial. (Contrary to popular belief, most divorces don’t actually go to trial.) Not only is that a costly process, but it also takes the outcome out of your hands and places it at a judge’s discretion. Using a strategy like mediation or arbitration gives you more control over the outcome.
Not Hiring Counsel
Divorce doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer. That said, unless it’s a simple, straightforward case with little conflict, it’s usually in your best interest to have representation.
The problem with hiring a divorce attorney is obviously that it costs money.
This may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes not hiring a divorce lawyer costs you more.
Many people undertake their own divorce only to end up at a disadvantage. It’s all too common for people to agree to unfavorable terms, a less-than-optimal custody schedule, or leave potential assets on the table.
Hiring an attorney also ensures that support payments are accurately calculated, the division of assets and debts is fair, and you protect what’s most important.
While the cost may seem like a lot now, you may save thousands of dollars over the course of your life.
In short, divorce is not cheap, even in the most straightforward cases. Dissolution agreements can be hugely complex, take into account a wide variety of factors, and feature many moving parts.
There are, fortunately, ways to potentially reduce some of these costs and limit the amount you ultimately spend. This is especially true when it comes to uncontested divorces or when there is little shared property and no children in play.
Related Reading: What To Know About Divorce Forms & Filing