How to Pay for a Divorce

Quick Answer

You can pay for a divorce by taking out a personal loan, using credit cards, borrowing money from friends and family, negotiating with your lawyer and seeking free or low-cost legal services.

How to Pay for a Divorce article image.

Divorce can be both painful and pricey, with costs ranging from a few hundred dollars for a do-it-yourself split to tens of thousands of dollars for a court case. How can you ensure that ending your marriage doesn't decimate your bank account?

Here are eight ways to pay for a divorce, including getting a personal loan, borrowing from family, using a credit card and seeking free legal aid.

1. Use Personal Savings

If you have a solid emergency savings account, you can tap it to cover your divorce.


  • Paying cash means you won't have to worry about making loan payments, paying interest or running up a credit card balance.
  • Using your savings is a good option in an amicable split where both spouses agree to use the funds to pay for the divorce.


  • You may not have enough savings to cover the cost of divorce.
  • Although laws vary depending on whether you live in a community property state, withdrawing funds from a joint account without telling your spouse could spark resentment or lead to legal retaliation; you may have to pay the money back.
  • Draining your savings could leave you without the funds you need to start over once the divorce is final.
Earn Money Faster

Find High-Yield Savings Accounts

2. Borrow From Loved Ones

Friends or family members may offer you financial as well as emotional support. Borrow only from people who can afford it. Write up a loan agreement specifying the loan amount, any interest charged, the amount and frequency of loan payments and when the loan will be repaid.


  • A friends and family loan requires no credit check and won't appear on your credit report, so it won't affect your credit score even if you miss a loan payment or two.
  • Friends and family may be more willing to work with you than traditional lenders and may not charge interest.


  • Failing to repay the loan could jeopardize your relationship. Have a plan for paying the loan back.
  • The lender could use the loan agreement to take you to small claims court if you don't make your loan payments.

3. Consider a Personal Loan

If you have a good idea of how much your divorce will cost, you could get a personal loan to pay for it.


  • Personal loans, available for up to $50,000 or more, provide more money than a credit card, so they can even help finance post-divorce expenses like renting an apartment.
  • There are personal loan options even if your credit isn't perfect.
  • Typically featuring fixed interest rates and fixed monthly payments, personal loans are a predictable expense. This can be easier to factor into your post-divorce budget than fluctuating credit card payments.
  • Interest rates for personal loans are usually lower than those for credit cards.


  • Those with poor or fair credit may have difficulty getting a personal loan. If you do get a loan, you may have to pay a higher interest rate or may not qualify for the amount you need.
  • Fixed monthly payments may cost more than a credit card's minimum monthly payments, hindering your financial flexibility.
  • Missed or late loan payments can hurt your credit score.

4. Use a Credit Card

If you have good to excellent credit, you may qualify for a credit card with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases. Use the card to pay divorce expenses and, if you pay off the balance before the promotional period ends, you won't accrue any interest.


  • Purchases won't accrue interest until the end of the introductory period, which can be as long as 21 months. Pay off your balance before that date to spread your payments over time without amassing interest.
  • Some credit cards earn rewards or perks for spending.


  • Once the introductory period ends, a variable credit card APR typically higher than those of personal loans kicks in, and interest starts accruing on any unpaid balance. Some cards add all the interest you would have accrued during the introductory period to your balance (called deferred interest), even if you've repaid most of the balance.
  • You need a good credit score for an introductory 0% APR credit card.
  • Your credit limit may be insufficient for divorce costs. Maxing out your credit card increases your credit utilization ratio, potentially lowering your credit score.

5. Seek Free or Low-Cost Legal Help

Depending on your income, you may qualify for free or reduced-cost legal aid or mediation services from nonprofit organizations, bar associations or law schools. You can also apply to have court filing fees waived if you cannot afford to pay; these fees typically range from $200 to $400.


  • You get professional legal services for little or no cost.


  • Your income could be too high to qualify for these services.
  • There could be a long waiting list or other hurdles to accessing free or low-cost legal help.

6. Do It Yourself or Use Mediation

Legal websites that walk you through filling out and filing the necessary forms can help you do a DIY a divorce for an average of $150 to $500, according to a Nolo survey. Private divorce mediation, in which a professional mediator helps couples arrive at a settlement, usually costs $3,000 to $8,000.


  • DIY divorce or mediation can be a good solution if you and your spouse agree on how to divide your property, child custody, spousal support and other issues.
  • Online divorce or mediation costs substantially less than going to court.


  • This approach won't work if you have a contentious relationship or complicated assets to divide.

7. Negotiate With Your Attorney

Ask attorneys if they offer payment plans or flat-fee services. For example, there may be a flat fee to prepare legal documents or serve your spouse with papers. Some lawyers will agree to take their fees from your assets after reaching a settlement.


  • A flat fee or payment plan makes divorce expenses more predictable.
  • Attorneys' payment plans may not require a credit check—a plus if your credit isn't perfect.
  • Get the legal help you need without a big upfront expenditure.


  • Attorneys may charge fees or interest for payment plans, adding to your costs.
  • You may have to pay an initial retainer.
  • Attorneys typically won't send your account to collections if you fail to pay, but they may stop working on your case.

8. Get a Court Order

In some states, judges can order one spouse to pay or reimburse the other's attorney fees for a divorce. A court order may be an option if your spouse's income is significantly higher than yours, or if your spouse is being uncooperative or delaying the divorce process.


  • If a judge grants the request for a court order, your spouse could pay some or all your attorney's fees.


  • A court order isn't an option in all states or situations. Consult a family lawyer before asking the court to award your legal fees.
  • Court orders for payment of legal fees typically come at or near the end of your case, which could leave you with unpaid legal bills throughout the course of your case.

The Bottom Line

During and after a divorce, you'll need credit to buy or rent a new home, open new credit accounts or finance your attorney's fees. Taking steps to protect your credit will help keep all your options open.

Check your credit report to make sure it's up to date and see whether accounts are held jointly or separately. Since you've got a lot on your plate, sign up for free credit monitoring from Experian to keep tabs on your credit for you. You'll get alerts when your credit report is updated and be able to see any inquiries, credit applications or negative information that could be a warning of identity theft. You also get access to an interactive FICO® Score tracker that helps you stay on top of your credit score and monitor changes over time.