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  • Allison Roberts

Divorce Basics: Costs & Duration

Updated: May 19, 2023

Prospective clients often ask: How long will this take? How much will this cost? Can’t we just draft something and be done? Here is my response focusing on the financial and time duration aspects of a typical divorce:

How long does a divorce take?

If you file a Complaint (the document to establish a cut-off date and to start the legal process) and you proceed through all of the events and benchmarks established by the court, it will take on average, 6-9 months. This timing estimate does not include an adjournment of any of those required events along the way. If there is an honest sharing of information and an equal level of knowledge regarding the finances during the marriage, it can certainly settle sooner, but even in those cases, you should expect at least 3-4 months. Most cases, in my experience, take a year and some have taken longer.

Allowing time to end the marriage is wise because it can make priorities come into better focus as emotions begin to fade and reason takes the lead. Very few things that are rushed turn out as they should. No one who has made the decision to divorce wants to stay married for one day more than necessary, but trust your lawyer and slow down.

How much will my divorce cost?

The initial retainer will vary due to the foreseeable issues in your case such as:

Is there a business to value?

Is there a house or two to sell?

Is there debt in one person's name or both parties' names?

Are there complex employment compensation structures to address?

All of these variables impact the hours needed and the ultimate cost. But because I want to try to answer the question, a typical retainer will range from $5,000 to $10,000. Virtually all lawyers work on a retainer in divorce matters (as opposed to a flat fee), meaning we take payment upfront then deduct the amount we work on your case each month from that retainer. So, 3 hours of work at $375 an hour results in a deduction of $1,125 from the initial retainer.

Can’t we just draft something and be done?

We know you want it over with and want to move on with a new life. However, as said above, the passage of time will allow your priorities to become clear. Is it important to leave with no debt? Do you need retirement savings or do you need income today to cover your expenses? Do you want to stay in the house or is this a good time to downsize/relocate? We must gather the financial information, identify what assets and debts are “in the pot” to divide, then discuss what makes the most sense to divide that pot. Identifying all of the items that are to be divided and addressed requires a certain amount of work before I, or any lawyer, can just draft your documents.

Every case is different and each situation will have different priorities. Take a breath and let your lawyer guide you through this process.

If you have any further questions, contact us at

or feel free to call us at 908-237-3098.

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