This is a very common and reasonable question. The cost to divorce in Minnesota can be anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000, because there are several factors that influence the cost, and these factors depend on the individual and his/her specific situation. Therefore, you can expect to pay somewhere in that range.
However, although it helps to have an estimate, let’s get a better idea of how much your divorce in Minnesota will cost and also what you can do to get the most for your money. Check out the 10 factors listed below and use them to make financially sound decisions throughout the divorce process.
10 Factors that Influence Cost to Divorce
1. Your Attorney Fees
Perhaps the most obvious factor that will impact the cost of your divorce, is the cost for your attorney. Therefore, your attorney should be upfront about his/her hourly rates and retainer fees with you during the consultation. In addition, your attorney should be willing to review his/her billing practices and answer any questions you have during your intake appointment before requesting you to sign any engagement agreement or fee contract.
For example, unlike Majeski Law, some law firms bill the client for case expenses such as long distance phone rates, printing material, photocopies, postage fees, etc… Therefore, depending on the law firm, case expenses could be another separate factor that would influence the total cost of your divorce. And although the law firm may only charge $.05 per sheet of paper, for example, it does start to add up. 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
This refers to the couple’s ability to communicate and work together. The more negotiating the two of you can do behind the scenes without the direct intervention of your lawyer(s), and the court for that matter, typically the less your divorce will cost.
However, with that being said, there are situations when it’s best that the parties don’t talk directly with one another or can’t due to a protection order or circumstances outside of their control. 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 in Minnesota.
3. Your and Your Spouse’s Expectations
This relates to how reasonable each spouse’s expectations are regarding the divorce. There are very few divorces in which one spouse will get absolutely everything that s/he wants. Instead, it’s much more common for each spouse to work towards what s/he can accept. Therefore, in order to control this cost, it’s helpful for each spouse to have realistic expectations. This does not mean giving in to your spouse’s every demand, but it does mean being willing to evaluate which issues are worth it and most important to you.
4. Your Attorney and your Spouse’s Attorney
A good divorce attorney should put your interests ahead of his/her own. This means that your attorney should be working in a cordial and cooperative manner with everyone involved in your divorce, including your soon-to-be ex or his/her attorney. Hostility only breeds hostility. Increasing hostility tends to decrease the level of trust and cooperativeness of those involved, which indirectly increases the cost of your divorce because it takes longer to reach a resolution. 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
Although Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, and either spouse can initiate a divorce, if one spouse does not want the divorce, then s/he 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 all the way to trial, the closer you and your spouse are of going to trial, the more divorce expenses.
To illustrate, your divorce attorney’s workload increases significantly the closer you get to trial. Therefore, going to trial is where a substantial amount of your attorney fees come from in a divorce. As you get closer to trial, people typically have spent money hiring additional professionals, such as a custody evaluator. Therefore, if you’re going to trial, chances are your paying more fees to third party neutrals and other experts for their work on your case.
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 & Debt
Typically the more assets and debt that a couple has, the more your divorce will cost. This is because often the couple will hire an appraiser to have a third party value the marital property to ensure that it is divided fairly and equitably between the spouses. Therefore, having to pay for additional third party costs, such as an appraiser, will increase the cost of your divorce.
However, paying the costs to hire an appraiser can be worth it in the long run, so it’s important to consider your own particular situation in detail.
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 child 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, and therefore are costly.
8. Court Fees
Getting divorced in Minnesota costs a certain amount of money, no matter if you hire a divorce attorney or not, due to charges from the court system. On average, you 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 $8 to get a certified copy of your final divorce decree. Again, court fees are a divorce expense in Minnesota regardless of whether you hire a divorce attorney or not, because the money goes directly to the court to pay for their services.
9. Service Costs
If you’re the spouse requesting the divorce, you’ll most likely have to pay service costs. Minnesota law requires that the pleading documents (the documents that are required to start the divorce process) are 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 you hire as your server, so it can be helpful to shop around. If you hire a divorce attorney, s/he can recommend and arrange a service provider for you, if you desire. On a side note, it’s important that you get a reliable and efficient service provider.
10. Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR)
Typically when there is a strong disagreement between spouses it’s related to children, alimony, and/or property, and reasonably so, since these are significant issues.
For example, disagreements can center around how retirement accounts, homestead property, personal bank accounts, etc… should be divided, and who should have to pay child support or alimony (known as, spousal maintenance in Minnesota).
Often, the greater the distance between you and your spouse on significant issues, the more difficult it can be to reach an agreement. When this happens in Minnesota, spouses are encouraged to hire the services of a third party neutral, known as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) professional, such as a Mediator, or a Social/Financial Early Neutral Evaluator.
Therefore, if you and your spouse have significant issues that can’t be resolved, your divorce will cost more because you and your spouse could be required to pay a third party for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services.
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.
However, although alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services can be expensive, these services still tend to be less expensive than going to trial, which means that you’re saving money in the long run.
As you can see, 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, in general, the least expensive divorces tend to be those in which the above factors are well-managed and all the parties involved are putting 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.