The Best (and Worst) States for Getting a Divorce
If you’re in a rocky relationship, it’s hard to know when to call it quits. For some, it’s until death do us part. For others, parting could happen much sooner. In either case, divorce can be hard and messy.
Sure, there are ways to dodge a divorce, and some are more likely to make it last than others. But depending on where you live in the country, ending a marriage either can be quick, cheap, and easy or lengthy, expensive, and complicated. Here are the best and worst states for divorce.
1. California (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $17,500
California might be a land of second chances, but that’s less so for couples wanting out. A divorce in the Golden State has one of the highest filing fees at $395, and it takes a minimum of 360 days to process.
The state recognizes irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity as legal grounds for separation. California is among the handful of states that divide property on a community basis, which says both spouses get an equal share of net assets.
2. District of Columbia (best)
Average cost of divorce: $18,700
The District of Columbia had the highest divorce rate in 2014 and 2015, about 30 marriages per 1,000 ending in a divorce. The law requires either of the spouses to have been residents for six months, and a divorce takes a minimum of 180 days to process for a fee of $80.
Couples can file for a no-fault divorce in D.C. if they have been mutually separated for six months or “living separate and apart” for a year, which could involve living under the same roof but not sharing food or a bed.
3. Florida (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $13,500
The Sunshine State is one of the most expensive for filing a divorce at $409. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce, where no spouse can blame the other for breaking up the marriage. It is also a fairly lengthy process, taking a minimum of 200 days.
In 2016, Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed an alimony bill that would have required equal time sharing for child custody. Scott advocated for putting the child’s best interest before the parents’.
4. Idaho (best)
Average cost of divorce: $11,200
To file for a divorce in Idaho, the plaintiff must have been a resident of the state for six weeks. The state charges a divorce filing fee of $129, and the process could take 62 days. Idaho grants a no-fault divorce if the couple have been separated for more than five years without cohabiting. Fault-based divorce are granted on grounds, including willful neglect, habitual intemperance, permanent insanity, and conviction of felony.
5. Minnesota (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $11,400
The North Star State takes 180 days to process divorce cases with fees at $402. Minnesota grants divorce on grounds that the couple has stayed apart for 180 days, or there has been “serious marital discord.”
In 2016, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton passed the Cohabitation Alimony Reform Bill, which allows for alimony payments to be modified if the ex-spouse was living with another person.
6. Delaware (best)
Average cost of divorce: $16,200
Got married on a jest or dare? If you’re a resident of Delaware, you don’t have to break a sweat to get the marriage annulled. Like Washington, Delaware also grants divorce to a couple if one spouse agrees the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” That includes voluntary separation, separation caused by misconduct, incompatibility, and mental illness. The minimum processing time for a divorce is 180 days with a filing fee of $150.
7. Illinois (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $13,800
In January 2016, Illinois passed a law to become a fully no-fault divorce state, where neither party has to prove his or her spouse’s wrongdoing. The state’s fault-based divorce had covered reasons, including bigamy, impotence, adultery, attempted murder, and extreme cruelty.
Illinois charges a divorce filing fee of $337 and takes 180 days to process. Illinois divides property in an “equitable” manner, in which the circuit court assesses the value of marital property and divides it fairly, but not necessarily equally.
8. Washington (best)
Average cost of divorce: $13,400
Washington refers to divorce as “dissolution of marriage” and grants it purely on a no-fault basis. One spouse in a couple needs to be a resident of the state to file for divorce, and the state has no minimum residency mandates. The divorce filing process can take 90 days, and the fee is $280. In Washington, a couple can get a divorce if one spouse feels the marriage is broken, even if the other spouse disagrees.
9. New York (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $17,100
New York requires either one or both spouses to be residents of the state for a year before they can file for divorce, one of the strictest in the country. At $335 and 360 minimum days of processing time, the Empire State is not quite divorce-friendly.
In New York, unless the couple enters into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, advanced-educational degrees and professional licenses obtained during marriage are considered marital property and will be divided equitably between spouses.
10. New Hampshire (best)
Average cost of divorce: $12,300
In the New England state of New Hampshire, getting divorced is almost as easy as getting married. The state’s divorce minimum filing time is less than a day, the fastest processing time for any state. At with a $180 filing fee, it’s not too expensive either.
In 2016, the state Supreme Court ruled that divorce courts should consider cohabitation of same-sex couples before marriage for equitable distribution of property. That factored in time couples were together before they could legally marry.
11. Vermont (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $11,200
Vermont was one of the first states to institute civil unions back in 2000. And it was one of the early states to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009 through legislative action rather than a court ruling. But the state could use some ease with its divorce laws.
Like New York, couples have to reside in Vermont for a minimum of 12 months to legally separate. It also is one of the slowest states to process divorce cases: 450 days with a filing fee of $263.
12. Iowa (best)
Average cost of divorce: $11,700
Iowa was the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009 and the first Midwestern state to do so. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Iowa introduced a rule to consider the financial standing of both parents after divorce while paying for kids’ college.
Like New Hampshire, Iowa does not require a minimum residency to file for divorce. The processing time is about 90 days and costs $185.
13. South Carolina (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $12,600
If you’re filing for a divorce in South Carolina, you better be prepared to wait for more than a year. It could take a minimum of 450 days to process divorce cases, and the state charges a filing fee of $150. It also requires the couple to be residents of the state for a minimum of 12 months.
To file for a no-fault divorce, a couple should have been separated for at least a year. A proposed amendment to change the timeline to 180 days almost was put to ballot last year during elections.
14. Alaska (best)
Average cost of divorce: $13,100
With no minimum residency-duration requirements for the couple (but one spouse must be a resident) and a processing time of 30 days, Alaska is among the friendliest for a divorce. The filing fee is $150, and the state divides property in an equitable fashion.
In January, the state amended its laws to consider pets as children. It applied the same standards of child custody to pets, making decisions based on the pet’s best interest.
15. Arkansas (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $11,100
It could take years to get a divorce settled in Arkansas. The state has a 540-day processing time, and the couple has to have lived separately for 18 months to file for a no-fault divorce. If there is any sign of cohabitation during those months, the 18-month waiting period begins again. The divorce filing fee is $165. At least one spouse should have been a resident of Arkansas for 60 days.
16. Maine (best)
Average cost of divorce: $11,100
Maine processes divorce cases in 60 days with a filing fee of $120. The state grants divorce on both a no-fault and fault basis on grounds, including alcoholism, impotence, adultery, abuse, and extreme cruelty.
17. Rhode Island (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $13,200
Rhode Island is notorious for its long processing time for divorce cases: a minimum of 510 days with a residency mandate of 12 months. The state charges a divorce filing fee of $120 and grants divorce on grounds, including extreme cruelty, drunkenness, drug use, and willful desertion.
18. South Dakota (best)
Average cost of divorce: $10,900
South Dakota is another state with lenient residency requirements. Although one spouse needs to be a resident of the state at the time of filing, South Dakota has no minimum residency-duration mandates.
With a divorce filing fee of $95 and processing time of 60 days, South Dakota ranks high on favorable divorce laws. The state divides marital and separate property equitably and values non-monetary contributions, including homemaking and child care.
19. New Jersey (worst)
Average cost of divorce: $15,600
New Jersey grants no-fault divorce (based on 18 months of separation) and fault-based divorce on grounds, including drug use, deviant sexual behavior, and imprisonment. The Garden State requires either spouse to have been a resident for a year, and the divorce filing process could take another 360 days, costing $250.
New Jersey has a provision for default divorce, in which the court can grant divorce if a spouse does not appear for the proceedings or does not answer the complaint.
20. Wyoming (best)
Average cost of divorce: $11,400
Wyoming is a pure no-fault divorce state, where no party can blame his or her spouse for termination. Wyoming’s grounds for divorce are expansive enough to include incompatibility, financial irresponsibility, and verbal abuse. Processing divorce cases could take a minimum of 80 days and cost $70.