Cost of Divorce in Minnesota

Cost to Divorce in Minnesota can be high
There are many factors which influence the cost of divorce.

“What’s the cost of Divorce in Minnesota?”  This is a very common and reasonable question. The cost can be anywhere from $3,000 to $100,000.  Although, the latter would be very high and very unusual.  Typically divorces resolve for somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000, however there are no guarantees. 

There are several factors that influence the cost.  These factors change based on the individual and his or her specific situation. However, although a range can be helpful, here are ten factors that can impact the cost of divorce. 

10 Factors that Influence Cost to Divorce
1. Your Attorney Fees 

Your attorney’s fees will impact the cost of your divorce, maybe more than anything else.  Therefore, your attorney should be upfront about his/her hourly rates and retainer. 

In addition, your attorney should be willing to review his or her billing practices and answer any questions before you sign any engagement agreement or fee contract. For example, some law firms bill the client for case expenses such as long distance phone rates, printing material, photocopies, postage fees, etc… Therefore, it’s helpful to know if your attorney charges separate for such case expenses so you can budget accordingly.  

2. Your Relationship with Your Spouse

If spouses can still work together, divorces are typically less costly. The more informal negotiating the spouses can do, typically the less your divorce will cost.

However, there are situations when it’s best that the parties don’t talk directly with one another.  If there is a lot of conflict, or perhaps a protection order, spouses should avoid direct communication. In addition, the lower the level of trust between the spouses, the harder reaching an agreement can be and therefore, the higher the cost of divorce.

3. Your and Your Spouse’s Expectations

What does each spouse want out of the divorce? Few divorces involve one spouse getting absolutely everything he or she wants. Instead, it’s much more common for each spouse agreeing on what he or she can accept.

Therefore, in order to control this cost, it’s helpful for each spouse to have realistic expectations. This doesn’t mean giving in to your spouse’s every demand.  Instead, if spouses are willing to be reasonably flexible, divorce costs typically go down.

4. Your Attorney and your Spouse’s Attorney

A good divorce attorney should put your interests ahead of his or her own, always. Your attorney should be working in a cordial manner with everyone involved in your divorce, including your soon-to-be ex or his or her attorney.

Hostility only breeds hostility. Increasing hostility tends to decrease the level of trust and cooperativeness of those involved.  In turn, this increases the cost of your divorce because it takes longer to reach a resolution.  In some cases, it could force the expense of a trial.

Therefore, hiring an aggressive lawyer doesn’t guarantee that you’ll come out financially ahead. Instead it’s more cost effective for you to select an assertive divorce attorney who will put your needs first and remain calm and respectful when representing you.

5. Your and Your Spouse’s Desire to Divorce

If one spouse does not want the divorce, then he or she may be less motivated to come to a settlement or more willing to go to trial. Although only about 5 – 10 % of divorces in Minnesota go to trial, the closer it gets, the more divorces cost. 

Specifically, a divorce attorney’s workload increases significantly the closer it is  to trial. Trial preparation is very labor intensive. 

Also, as it gets closer to trial, people typically have spent money hiring additional professionals.  Therefore, if you’re going to trial, spouses may pay more fees to third party neutrals and other experts to participate.   

However, you may be able to request that your spouse pays for some of your attorney fees, if your spouse has unreasonably contributed to the length and expense of your divorce.

6. Marital Assets and Debt

Typically the more assets and debt that a couple has, the more your divorce will cost.  When there more to gain or lose, sometimes it makes more sense to pay more fees to get a favorable result.

In addition, couples may need to hire third parties value the marital property to ensure that it is divided fairly and equitably between the spouses.   This cost may be worthwhile, however it is still an additional divorce expense.

7. Children

If the couple disagrees on issues such as child custody, a divorce can cost more because a couple may hire a third party, such as a custody evaluator to complete an assessment of the child(ren)’s best interests.

Custody evaluations are very detailed and take a lot of work and time to complete.  They are therefore typically very costly.

Lastly, child support may influence spouses to argue into trial as, long-term, it can be a significant expense.

8. Court Fees 

On average, a spouse can expect to pay around $400 to the court in filing fees when you divorce in Minnesota. However, the exact amount you’ll pay in court filing fees in Minnesota, will depend on the county and if you’re filing jointly.

In addition to court filing fees and also depending on the county in Minnesota, the court may charge you an additional fee to get a certified copy of the final divorce decree.

Court fees are a divorce expense in Minnesota regardless of whether you hire a divorce attorney or not.  These fees help pay the court for their services.  

9. Service Costs

A spouse starting a divorce may have service costs. Minnesota law requires that the documents to start a divorce are hand-delivered to the other spouse by an adult other than the spouse seeking the divorce.

Therefore, services costs are a separate amount that you pay to a third party to “serve” your spouse the pleading documents. If your spouse lives outside the state of Minnesota or you don’t know where your spouse lives, service costs tend to be more expensive.

Prices also vary depending on who the server is, so it can be helpful to shop around. A divorce attorney can recommend and arrange a service provider, if desired.

10. Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR) costs

Typically, if there are disagreements, spouses disagree on child custody, child support, alimony, and/or property.   This is reasonable.  These are significant issues for any separating family.

Often, spouses have a harder time reaching an agreement the greater the distance between them on the issue. When this happens in Minnesota, spouses are encouraged and expected to hire the services of a third party neutral.  He or she is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) professional.  A mediator or an early neutral evaluator are examples.

Therefore, if spouses have significant issues that can’t be resolved, divorces will cost more because these professionals require fees for these services.  However, these costs typically pale in comparison to trial costs.

In addition, both the type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service you select, such as: Mediation, or Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE), and who you hire as your alternative dispute resolution (ADR) professional will impact the cost of your divorce.  A more expensive professional may be worth it if he or she helps spouses obtain a settlement.

In Summary

As seen above, the cost to divorce in Minnesota is heavily influenced by several factors that are particular to your specific situation, and thus, the reason for the wide range in cost.

However, spouses who manage these factors will typically have less divorce costs.  Additionally, it helps when everyone involved puts in their best efforts to resolve any issues and move forward. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.