Divorce is never an easy process. There are emotional issues which are stressful and painful as well as the simple logistics of finding a way to divide one life together into two separate lives. And if there are children involved then the process can get much more complex.
One area that is of major concern is the cost of the actual divorce and how that cost will impact the financial future or both parties involved in the divorce as well as their children. The actual cost of the process is going to vary from state to state and also due to several other factors. The three main factors that you will want to take into consideration when trying to estimate the average cost of getting a divorce are the complexity of the divorce case, the level of conflict and the method of divorce that you are choosing and the professionals whose services you will be using.
More Complex Means More Costly
When you are looking at dissolving a relationship, you need to look at the relationship and several factors to determine how easy or difficult it will be for the two involved parties to separate. You need to consider how long you were married. This will have an impact on how intertwined your finances are, how many joint possessions that you own and if you have children together. If it was a long marriage then there are likely to be many joint assets and those will need to be divided fairly between the two spouses. This can require more time and documentation than the separation of a shorter marriage with fewer assets. Debt can also be a factor as it needs to be determined who will repay the debt or how it will be divided for future repayment. With respect to the division of debt, there is also the evaluation of incomes for the two spouses. If one earns substantially more then there could be a consideration such as spousal support or child support if only one parent has custody of any children involved. Additional complications can arise if there is a jointly owned family business. In some cases, the business relationship can continue unchanged, but often the business relationship must also be dissolved. This would require much more time and would greatly increase the cost of legal services for the divorce.
The Level of Conflict
Obviously, there is a certain level of conflict or there would be no reason for the divorce. But the degree of conflict will have a big impact on the cost of the divorce. If you are both willing to be open and honest about assets and issues then that can make the process much faster and by extension much less expensive. Even though it might be difficult, being able to work together to come to a mutual agreement about assets, debt, possessions, and responsibilities can greatly reduce the time and input from a legal team. If you are unable to determine this information, then a long negotiation process will begin and can require months to settle. And during all of that time, legal fees are mounting. If you cannot reach an agreement there is even the possibility that a judge would need to divide the mutual property, assets, and debt in a legally binding decree. In short, even if you can’t agree on much of anything, it is a good idea to try to work together one last time to complete the division of assets process as quickly as possible. In the end, it is saving you both time and money.
What Type of Divorce to Get
There are several basic methods that you can use for a divorce. A do it yourself divorce is just that. You are both working together to create the terms of the divorce and then filing them for a legal judgement. This is the most basic type and therefore is the least expensive. The cost can range from around $500 to as much as $2000 and the cost is mostly court fees to have the divorce legally documented and recognized. If you are in agreement about some aspects of the divorce but not all of them then you might need the services of a professional mediator. That is a person who will sit down with you and your spouse and help you to work through the process of dividing property and reaching all of the necessary agreements regarding debt, assets and other joint items. The fees for this service as well as filing the legal documents will cost anywhere from $5,000 to up $10,000. If you require more assistance than a mediator can provide then you might need to explore a collaborative divorce. This includes a lawyer who works with you and your spouse to determine the terms of the divorce including all assets and debts, property and any needs of the children involved. The time involved is much greater and so is the cost which could range from $25,000 to $50,000. The most expensive, longest and normally most adversarial is a litigated divorce with all the trimmings. This would include two lawyers and a judge in addition to all of the assistants in the legal field. The time will be long and drawn out as you will need to work with the timing of the court and the fees will reflect that. With attorney fees ranging from $200- $500 an hour this divorce could easily cost $100,000 or more.
In the End…
Ending any long term relationship can be painful but it really doesn’t need to be expensive. Once you have determined that the relationship is over, there is no reason to drag out the process and make it painfully expensive. You can take the average cost of getting a divorce and work within that budget by finding a way to compromise and work together to reach a final agreement, or you can pay a legal team to make the decisions for you. The end result is the same, you just need to determine how much you want to pay for it.