Most people think of divorce as expensive and it can be in many cases. How much your divorce will cost can vary greatly depending on several factors. It is important to talk with your attorney about legal fees from the outset so you know what to expect and can relay to your lawyer your concerns and priorities. While it is impossible to precisely predict your legal costs, there are some general guidelines that can help you determine a broad cost range for your divorce.
Factors relevant to the cost of divorce
The length of your marriage, the amount and complexity of assets accumulated during your marriage and your willingness to compromise have a significant impact on how much your divorce will cost. Below are two common scenarios.
Straightforward divorce with no significant assets and cooperative parties
If you and your spouse haven’t been married long, don’t have substantial assets to divide and mostly agree on issues of spousal and child support, asset division, and child custody/parenting time, your divorce costs should fall within the range of high four figures to low five figures. In this instance, the cost of the divorce is more about writing a separation agreement and completing the necessary court paperwork including a judgment of divorce than negotiations.
Long-term marriage, complicated assets, some disagreements
In a divorce following a long-term marriage, financial issues tend to become more of an issue. One spouse may have been out of the workforce to raise children and there may be substantial assets to distribute. These may include ones that are more difficult to value, such as a business, pension, stock options, and other assets. This will drive up the cost of divorce because it is more time-consuming and expensive to gather and analyze your finances. In some cases, outside financial experts may be needed.
If you and your spouse have some disagreements about property division, spousal support or any matters related to children (support, visitation, custody), your divorce will be more expensive. You can expect your divorce to cost anywhere from low- to mid-five figures in many cases. However, it depends on the time and effort needed to resolve your disputes. For instance, if financial investigations or experts are needed or some disputes cannot be resolved without litigation, the cost may go up to the higher five figures, possibly six figures. In this circumstance, the costs are driven by fact-finding and negotiation as opposed to writing a separation agreement and completing court paperwork.
Couples with six-figure divorces are the ones that are unwilling to compromise on any issues and everything must be litigated. Here, the fighting, along with the fact-finding and negotiations are the drivers of the cost.
Reducing the cost of divorce
The above scenarios assume you have an experienced divorce attorney, which is important. You should not try to save money by hiring a cheap lawyer. Someone with low fees likely does not have the necessary skills, and an unskilled lawyer can end up costing you more time and money in the long run.
The best way to minimize legal fees is to be willing to negotiate and settle on at least some issues. Know your priorities and consider giving up certain things that are not important to you to get those that are of greater value to you.
In addition, you should consider the cost of winning. Sometimes, it can be more expensive to litigate than what you would gain from your spouse. Cost should be measured in terms of time and money spent as well as the impact on you and your children of a prolonged court fight. Ask yourself when is it the right time to settle, because the fight to be right isn’t worth it and won’t make you any happier.
Not all issues can be settled and may need to be litigated. In that situation, you should expect that it will be more expensive.
If you are considering divorce, contact us to discuss how we can help protect your interests and achieve the best result in your case.