When you choose to litigate your divorce in the NY courts (contested divorce), you can expect vastly higher costs than you would pay to negotiate the terms of your settlement (uncontested divorce). Just how much you may spend depends on many factors, but the biggest reason for high prices involves the degree of contentiousness in your relationship with your spouse (resulting in motion practice) — and what you (or your spouse) is willing to endure to get your way.
Do not be fooled by the relatively nominal court filing fees for uncontested divorce. These represent a small starting point for the fees you are likely to face, such as the following:
- Additional filing fees for each motion you file
- Attorney fees, which can increase significantly based on the amount of time it takes to litigate and reach the settlement needed to finalize the divorce
- The costs associated with pre-trial activities such as discovery or retaining the professional evaluators who are often needed for high-asset divorces
- The cost of time spent in court, which becomes more significant when one party repeatedly brings the other back to court for appeals
While most reputable divorce lawyers encourage their clients to negotiate the terms of their settlement, couples turn to contested divorce for many valid reasons. For example, in cases involving abuse or even a significant imbalance of power within the marriage, subordinate parties may not have the ability to defend their rights. In such cases, experienced divorce attorneys may recommend seeking justice through the courts, but they also should be dedicated to taking all possible actions to reduce expenses along the way.