Divorce Costs in North Carolina

There is no exact formula to determine how much a divorce will cost. It depends on the unique factors of each situation, the complexity of the couple’s assets, whether there are children involved, and if the parties are approaching the divorce amicably.

Planning for Divorce Costs

A skilled lawyer can provide you with a rough estimate of anticipated costs after an initial consultation. There are some costs that are likely to arise in any divorce case:

  • $225 Court filing fee for a divorce in North Carolina
  • $30 fee to have a sheriff serve the defendant or $7 to serve the defendant by certified mail
  • Additional $10 fee for a claim of Resumption of Maiden Name
  • Fee for an attorney to draft and file the Complaint for Absolute Divorce
  • Fee for preparation of financial statement detailings assets and expenses
  • Fee for preparation of responses to required discovery and disclosures
  • Cost of Court hearings

What Are Some Unexpected Costs of Divorce?

While some divorces are straightforward, many have complicating factors that increase the costs. Unexpected costs can arise from the following:

    • An uncooperative spouse. The less cooperative your spouse is, the more difficult the case will become. This increases the likelihood of lengthy negotiations, multiple hearings, and significant discovery.
    • Complicated assets. If you or your spouse own a business,  real estate, or other assets that are not easy to separate, this will add complexity and cost to the case. The assets will require a valuation, and they are more complicated to split. The parties will need to agree to either sell the asset or for one spouse to pay out the other’s interest in the asset.
    • Separate assets. If some of your assets have a separate component to them, such as a 401(k), you may need an expert to help prove the separate portion and the growth on it.
    • Hidden assets. If you believe your spouse is hiding assets that should be split evenly in the divorce, you will need to spend time and money to uncover the assets for fair consideration.
    • A pension. If you or your spouse has a pension, it may require a valuation to factor in the future years of payments.
    • Children. If you and your spouse have children, your separation agreement will need to take into account the parenting of the children. This can include a parenting plan and any child support obligations. If there are disputes over custody or child support payments, this is likely to increase the cost of the case.
    • Alimony.  North Carolina does not have alimony guidelines.  So, if you and your spouse cannot agree on the amount and duration of alimony, these disputes will increase your legal fees.

Any factor that will require more of your attorney’s time will increase the costs of your divorce.

Benefits of Mediation

Some of the biggest drivers of costs during divorce are hearings and complying with court processes like disclosures and discovery. Pursuing mediation significantly reduces each of these costs. In addition to the lower cost, mediation offers several other benefits:

  • It’s less stressful. Mediators are trained in easing tension and removing unnecessary emotion from the process. The goal of mediation is to amicably resolve the matter. It feels less contentious than a court divorce proceeding.
  • It’s quicker. Mediation isn’t an immediate solution; it still takes time to assess the assets and reach a resolution that satisfies both parties. Even though it takes time, mediation is still much quicker than protracted divorce proceedings.
  • It’s confidential. Court documents and many court proceedings are public, putting you at risk of having the details of your divorce made public. The conversations that take place during mediation are confidential, and the only documents that will be filed with the Court are the final, agreed-upon details (if you settle by Court Order) and the divorce paperwork.  If you resolve your case by Separation Agreement and Property Settlement, none of your private details are in the public record.
  • It’s more flexible. A mediator is more likely to encourage out-of-the-box thinking to resolve disputes around assets or other roadblocks to an amicable settlement. The settlement agreement can be better tailored to the desires of the separating couple.
  • It protects children. Divorce proceedings can become contentious, which can be traumatic for the children of the separating parents. Mediation is aimed at reducing tension and conflict.

Finding the Best Cary Divorce Lawyer for You

It’s important to find a divorce lawyer who will advocate on your behalf while also staying true to your goals in the divorce. Look for a lawyer whose practice is focused on divorce and who has a history of success in your area. It is important to choose a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the local court system.

You should also choose a lawyer who is open to pursuing resolution through mediation. A lawyer with your best interests in mind will present you with all possible options for resolution, which includes mediation.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Who Pays for a Divorce in North Carolina?

You are responsible for the costs you accrue in pursuing the divorce. This means that if you file for divorce, you will pay the filing fees. If you hire an attorney, you will be responsible for the fees for your attorney. If your spouse’s goal is to make the divorce complicated, this does not mean that they are responsible for any of your attorney’s fees. There are a few situations where a Court can order a portion of your legal fees to be paid by the other spouse, but this is typically after you have incurred the expense.

How Much Does Divorce Really Cost?

If you have issues to resolve and put in writing about children, support, assets, or debts, you likely can file for an absolute divorce and do not need any Court Orders or a Separation Agreement.  For an absolute divorce only, you can expect the cost to be around $1,500.  A separation and divorce with other issues can easily cost between $5,000 to over $100,000 depending on the complexity. If you and your spouse both agree to the divorce and generally agree to the division of assets, the costs can be on the lower end of that range. If, however, your divorce involves any complicating factors, such as an uncooperative spouse, children, or complicated assets, the costs can be on the higher end of the spectrum.

If you and your spouse choose to pursue mediation to prepare your settlement agreement, the costs are generally much lower than proceeding to resolve the matter in Court.

Will Divorce Ruin Me Financially?

Divorce does not have to ruin you financially. When you work with a law firm that understands your financial needs and is committed to addressing them, you should receive value beyond the dollars you pay in legal fees by having fewer headaches, less stress, and less time commitment, as well as a resolution that makes sense for your unique situation. Work with your lawyer to take a practical approach to your divorce. For example,  your lawyer should caution you against spending $10,000 in fees to dispute an asset worth $5,000.

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