A contested divorce is when one spouse contests the grounds on which the other spouse wants a divorce. It involves lengthy legal battles as the contesting spouse disputes issues like alimony, child custody, division of assets etc. Contested divorces in India can take anywhere from 2-5 years to finalize and cost several lakhs of rupees in legal fees and other expenses. The prolonged fights lead to emotional trauma and financial difficulties for both parties.
Key Factors That Affect Cost
The total cost of a contested divorce depends on various factors:
- The Complexity of the Case: More complex cases with disputes over major assets, child custody, domestic violence etc take a longer time to resolve and cost significantly more in legal expenses. Simple cases with fewer major disputes generally cost much less.
- Location of the Court: Metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore have much higher lawyer fees compared to smaller towns and cities. So contested divorces in bigger cities cost more.
- Number of Court Hearings: The more the number of court hearings, the more the lawyer fees and miscellaneous expenses. Cases that get resolved faster with fewer hearings naturally cost less.
- Hiring Senior/Renowned Lawyers: Senior lawyers or those with decades of experience charge much higher professional fees. Hiring these top lawyers significantly increases the total divorce cost.
- Claims for Alimony: If the wife makes contested claims for high alimony payments, it can vastly increase the cost. Negotiated alimony costs less.
Average Cost Estimate in India
Taking into consideration all the above factors, the average cost today for a contested divorce in India is estimated to be:
- Lawyer’s Fee: Rs 1 – 5 Lakhs: This covers the professional fee of the divorce lawyer, drafting of various petitions and affidavits, court representations etc. Senior lawyers from top firms charge on the higher end.
- Court Fee: Rs 2000 – Rs 15,000: The court fee depends on the court where the divorce case is filed. Contested divorces in lower courts have lower fees. The high courts charge more.
- Alimony Cost: Up to Rs 15 Lakhs: Any contested claims for alimony, maintenance and child support by the wife can significantly shoot up the total cost. Negotiated alimony costs less.
- Other Expenses: Rs 50,000 – Rs 2 Lakhs: Miscellaneous expenses like travel, documentation, and hiring experts can also add to the cost.
Considering all the above factors, the typical total cost for a contested divorce in India can range between Rs 3 Lakhs to Rs 10 Lakhs on average. The exact cost varies depending on the city, complexity of disputes, number of hearings, lawyers hired and claims for alimony. Contested divorces are expensive, stressful and emotionally draining. If possible, it is prudent to negotiate a settlement or opt for an uncontested divorce.