How Much Does a Divorce Lawyer Cost in California?

The common prices for a divorce lawyers' help
Last Updated on April 2024

In California, the cost of a divorce lawyer is between $100 and $400 per hour. Average total costs for lawyers range from $13,000 to $18,000 but are significantly lower in cases with no contested issues.

Divorce Lawyers Fees in California

One of the first things that probably come to your mind after you decide to file for divorce is where to get legal support in order to end your marriage quickly and smoothly. A divorce lawyer will be with you on all the steps of the dissolution process, from filling out the paperwork to finalizing your divorce. And while it’s great to have a person helping you in such a difficult time, it will cost you quite a lot.

A divorce lawyer hourly rate starts at $100 and can reach hundreds of dollars. Typical lawyer fees for divorce can be around $5,000 for very simple uncontested cases and reach $18,000-25,000 in complex situations. You are probably wondering why the range is so huge. Let’s consider the factors that may affect family lawyer cost per hour:

Your location

There are some cities and counties that are more expensive than others. Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa are considered to be the priciest ones in the state when it comes to legal services. Furthermore, an attorney from a popular firm in a big city will charge significantly higher than those in a small town.

Lawyer’s expertise and experience

A freshly-graduated attorney usually charges less than a lawyer with dozens of successful cases. However, the question of whether to hire a novice lawyer or not depends on each specific case. For serious contested cases, the assistance of a well-experienced lawyer is essential.


The gravity of your case

Overall, it’s about the type of case you are filing for: contested or uncontested. If you and your ex-spouse are unable to agree on important matters concerning your divorce, it is contested. Consequently, it presupposes more involvement from legal practitioners. To help you properly, they have to do research on you and your spouse, acquire information that may put you in a vulnerable position, and see how they can use what they found to your advantage or mitigate potential risks.

The number of issues to resolve

This factor concerns a contested type of dissolution. When going for divorce, the couple needs to agree on such issues as child custody and support, alimony, property division, and so on. If it has turned out that you cannot agree on any of these matters, your lawyer will spend time determining what you want and if it’s something they can help you get. Then, they will likely communicate with the other spouse’s lawyer regarding settlements and do a lot of other things to help you reach your divorce goals. The harder it is to do, the more likely you’ll be billed more heavily.  


Having children in a marriage may turn your case into a contested one because of the number of issues to resolve. You and your spouse will need to choose the type of custody, create a parenting plan, agree on child support, etc. All of these have the potential to cause disputes.

Divorce lawyer consultation fee is often their regular hourly fee. You may use a consultation before hiring a lawyer to understand if they’re a good fit for you.

The Average Lawyer Cost for Divorce

Obtaining a divorce decree in the courthouse

If we speak about the average California divorce attorney fee, it is approximately $300 an hour. However, the prices usually vary from county to county. So in order to know the cost of a divorce lawyer in California, you will have to monitor the price range in your place of residence. There are some cities where an attorney’s fee per hour may reach $950. Also, most lawyers will ask you for a retainer fee, averaging $5,000.

Divorce Lawyer in Los Angeles

An average hourly rate of an attorney in Los Angeles starts at $150 and ends at $600. Depending on your case specifics, the average total cost of the whole marriage dissolution process may be more than $25,000.

Divorce Lawyer in San Diego

Divorce attorneys in San Diego charge between $250 and $550 per hour. The total amount and the retainer will be calculated by your lawyer based on your requests, needs, and family issues. The total price for marriage dissolution in San Diego is between $5,500 for simpler cases and around $38,000 for lengthy contested ones.

Divorce Lawyer in Orange County, CA

In Orange County, an attorney’s fee is between $175 and $325 per hour. For a complex case, the price may rise to approximately $500. The overall cost of divorce in the county varies from $4,500 to $15,000 and largely depends on divorce details. For example, an uncontested marriage dissolution with no children and property to divide may cost around $2,500.

How Disputes and Going to Trial Affect Lawyer Cost

Spouses having disputes in a lawyer's office

It is not a secret that in order to make your divorce lawyer prices as low as possible, you will have to resolve all the possible disputes with the second party. The reason lies in the following differences between contested and uncontested cases:


An uncontested divorce is usually finalized as soon as the waiting period in the state elapses. Once your lawyer finishes the service process and financial disclosure for you, they will have to wait as well. Contested cases can last around 12-18 months, and your lawyer will be highly involved in the processes occurring during this period, billing you hourly.

Number of hearings

In an uncontested divorce case, you are unlikely to visit a hearing at all if your paperwork is in order and all the problems are resolved. However, in a contested case, spouses will not be able to avoid court appearances, and there might be more than one.

Number of consultations

If your case is contested and there are many issues to dispute, be ready to spend days in your lawyer’s office or on the phone with them. On the contrary, if you have managed to come to an agreement, a few short meetings with your lawyer would suffice. They’ll need basic information to help you with your paperwork, and you’ll be able to ask questions influencing your divorce.

Cost of Getting a Divorce in California Without a Lawyer

Woman thinking about divorce without lawyer

If you and your ex-husband or wife are on the budget and cannot afford to pay legal fees, you will still have some options to consider. Note that divorce without a lawyer in California is an option only if you resolve all the disputes and make a settlement agreement with your spouse. In this case, an attorney’s involvement is not needed, and you can use alternative means to end your marriage.

A do-it-yourself divorce

A DIY divorce is the most affordable option that does not require any spending except for filing fees of $435, which can also be avoided if you apply for a fee waiver. Your application will only be valid if you have financial struggles that make you qualified to receive relief and can prove it.

While DIY marriage dissolution is definitely the cheapest option, it’s not the easiest one. Without any support, you will have to deal with the paperwork completely on your own. It means finding every single form that is required for your case, making sure each one is correct and up-to-date, and filling it out without any hints or examples.

Moreover, you will have to file completely on your own, which presupposes being aware of all the steps. Without a legal background, this task is almost unfulfillable.

Dissolution with online divorce provider

Luckily, there is still an option to get paperwork assistance without increasing your spending significantly – using an online divorce service. For only $139, you will receive personalized forms as well as step-by-step instructions on how to file them with the court correctly. In order to receive help, you only need to complete three steps:

  • Check if you qualify and pay.
  • Fill in a short questionnaire with details of your divorce.
  • Receive your forms and instructions in just 5 days.