How much does a contested divorce cost?
In most situations, a contested divorce will be more expensive than an uncontested divorce.
In a contested divorce, you will have to pay the court filing fee and maybe other court costs. If you cannot afford the filing fees, you can file Petition for Order Waiving Fees and Financial Affidavit, also called a pauper’s affidavit.1 A pauper’s affidavit is an application that you can file to ask the judge not to make you pay the court costs. A judge may or may not agree to waive the court costs. You may be able to get this form from the clerk of court or our Download Court Forms page.
The most expensive part of a contested divorce is usually hiring an attorney. Attorney fees can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Often the attorney will ask for what is called a retainer. A retainer is a lot like a down-payment or a deposit - it’s money you pay your attorney up front to secure his/her services. Then you may have to pay your attorney an hourly rate, which your retainer is usually credited against. (This means if you pay $500 as a retainer, and your lawyer charges $100 per hour, the first 5 hours are covered by the retainer - 5 hours at $100 an hour = your $500 retainer.) Many attorneys do not charge for the first appointment, which you can use as an opportunity to decide if that particular attorney is right for you.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one of the free or low-cost legal resources on our ND Places that Help page may be able to help. Please note, however, that some legal services providers are unable to take contested divorce cases.
1 N.D.C.C. § 27-01-07