How to get a loan to cover divorce costs
6 options when you're struggling to pay your legal fees out of pocket.
Divorces can be expensive, but you don’t necessarily need to have the funds on hand to cover the cost. Attorney payment plans, personal loans and funds from your joint bank account are just a few options that can help you cover the heavy financial burden. Plus, there are ways to cut down on divorce fees from the beginning to avoid a large bill at the end.
How can I finance a divorce?
You have several options to cover the cost of your divorce when you don’t have the money up front.
1. Attorney payment plan
Some divorce lawyers allow their clients to pay attorney fees using a payment plan. This works like an interest-free loan, where you pay off the balance in installments.
You might still need to pay the retainer — the first payment you make up front when you hire a lawyer to represent you. This is usually around several thousand dollars and might not be covered by a payment plan. Visit our guide to financing legal fees to learn about more options.
2. Use money you and your spouse shared
If you have joint assets, such as a bank account under both of your names, you can use those funds to cover your divorce costs. You might want to consider this option if you’re getting an uncontested divorce and have relied on your spouse’s income throughout the marriage.
3. Have your spouse cover the fees
Kept your own financial accounts through the divorce? You might still be able to get your spouse to pay the legal fees if they’re a higher earner.
Talk to your attorney about this option first. In some states like New York, your spouse might be legally obligated to cover your divorce fees if you don’t make as much as they do. But that’s not always the case. Depending on where you live, you might not be able to take advantage of this option if you have access to shared assets, like a retirement account.
4. Get a personal loan
A personal loan could help you cover all of your legal costs — or just the fees that your shared assets, spouse and payment plan don’t cover. Personal loans typically range from $2,000 to $50,000 with rates from 6% to 36% APR.
Typically, you need good personal credit and a solid income to qualify for a competitive rate. If you relied on your spouse for financial support, you might want to bring on someone you trust as a cosigner, like a sibling or parent.
5. Get a personal line of credit
If you need to finance your entire divorce, you might want to consider a line of credit instead of a personal loan. Rather than getting money up front, you get access to a pool of funds, which you can draw from as needed. This can help you avoid overborrowing and paying interest on funds you didn’t really need.
6. Use a credit card
Credit cards tend to have higher rates than personal loans and lines of credit. But they can be your only financing option if you already have a credit card in your name and can’t qualify for a loan on your own. This option could be best for funding small fees less than $1,000 — most personal loans don’t go that low.
7. Borrow from friends and family
Your friends and relatives might be willing to lend you money for your divorce. This could be a good option if you don’t have the credit score or income to qualify for a loan on your own and can’t find a cosigner. You can even draw up a legally binding contract by using a service like LoanWell.
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Should I get a divorce loan?
A divorce can be extremely disruptive to your personal finances — and throwing more debt into the mix might not be the best idea. But it could be a good option if you have a lot at stake in the proceedings. Taking out a loan can help you afford better legal representation and in some cases may even pay for itself.
If you go with a lender like SoFi, you can also access resources like free financial advice. But you’ll generally need to have a good credit score of at least 670, steady income and few personal debts to qualify. If you relied on your spouse for income, this might not be the best option unless you have a cosigner.
Pros and cons of divorce loans
Take in these benefits and drawbacks before you decide to take out a loan to pay for your divorce.
- Hire better representation. Taking out a loan opens you up to more options for your legal team and helps you build the best possible defense for yourself.
- Maintain your lifestyle. If your former spouse has most of your assets, a loan can help tide you over while you get back on your feet.
- Less expensive than a credit card. Personal loans tend to come with lower rates than credit cards.
- No collateral required. Most personal loans are unsecured, meaning you don’t have to put any assets on the line to qualify.
- Increases monthly expenses. If you’re living on an already-limited budget, a divorce loan can tighten it even more.
- Makes it harder to get other credit. If you need a new car or a new home, taking out a personal loan can make it difficult to finance those costs.
- Few options for bad or no credit. While some lenders like Stilt look at factors other than your credit score — like your income, spending and savings habits — generally you need a credit score of at least 670 to qualify.
- Increases total cost of divorce. When you borrow to pay for a divorce, you’re adding interest to something that’s already expensive.
How much does a divorce cost?
The average cost of a divorce is around $15,000, according to a survey by online legal guide Nolo. This number includes court fees, attorney costs and other expenses like having your assets appraised and hiring a tax adviser.
However, how much you actually pay will vary based on several factors, such as where you live, whether your divorce is contested and if you have any children. Uncontested divorces are typically less expensive than contested divorces — you might not need to hire a lawyer or mediator. Having a child can up the bill, since you might need to pay for a child custody evaluation.
Average cost of divorce by state
View average divorce costs as a visual map or a table by selecting the appropriate tab.
6 ways to cut back on divorce fees
From avoiding court as much as possible to relying on paralegals when you can, here are a few ways for you to lower your divorce bill:
- File online. Filing online can cut down on attorney and court-appearance fees, meaning you only need to cover filing costs. However, this is usually only an option for uncontested divorces.
- Come to an agreement on your own. An uncontested divorce means you don’t need to hire an attorney or get the courts involved in your assets. This can often reduce the cost to a few hundred dollars.
- Spend as little time in court as possible. Appearing in court is where your attorney fees can really add up, especially if your case is delayed and you’re paying by the hour.
- Stay away from attorney bundles. Some attorneys offer divorce packages that include multiple services, which you may or may not end up using. Hire an attorney for individual services instead to avoid wasting your money.
- Rely on paralegals when you can. Paralegals can help you with basic legal advice and generally cost less than a divorce lawyer.
- Only go for mediation if you’re both serious about it. Mediation might keep you out of court, but it isn’t free. And if you can’t agree on things, you’ll have to repeat the process.
Divorce might not be as expensive as marriage, but it isn’t cheap. If you and your spouse don’t have $15,000 each up front, using a payment plan or taking out a personal loan could make it easier to shoulder the cost.
You can learn more about how borrowing works by checking out our guide to personal loans.
Frequently asked questions
What happens to my loans after divorce?
Generally, nothing changes about any loans in your name after you get divorced — including loans cosigned with your spouse. You’re still responsible for paying off any loans you took out. And if you cosigned a loan, you’re responsible for covering repayments if your former spouse can’t.
Who pays legal fees in a divorce with fault?
If one party is at fault — like committing adultery — that generally doesn’t affect who pays the legal fees. The court typically doesn’t order a spouse to pay the other’s legal fees unless there’s a financial reason.
How long does it take to get divorced?
Typically, it takes between four and 11 months to get divorced. However, it depends on your state and how complicated your divorce is.
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