Virtual Consultations Available

The Answer Depends...

How much will my divorce cost?  This is one of our most frequently asked questions.  Of course, in true lawyer fashion, our answer often begins with “it depends…”.  Most people are asking about the financial costs, but there are other costs to consider as well –the amount of time involved, compromises to be made, and the emotional toll the divorce will take. 

To provide some answers to these questions, our firm tracks data as a way of helping to empower our clients to make the best decision about their resources. For example, we know that a “simple” divorce where both parties are in agreement on all the aspects of divorce, will cost on average about $5000-$7500, depending upon the complexity of their estate.

We also know that there is no limit on a highly contested divorce, as fees can easily exceed $100,000 or more when we are having to go to court regularly. So what exactly are the factors that distinguish a $7500 divorce from a $175,000 divorce?

Conflict between the parties. 

  • It’s simple: The less the parties are able to agree, the more the divorce will cost. It’s natural in divorce that there is conflict between the parties.  However, it’s also probable that there are common interests, even if the parties don’t agree on much.  For example, parents usually agree they want to do what is best for the children (but may not agree on what that is).  Or parties usually are willing to agree to minimize the amount of the taxes that will be paid.  Keeping the focus on the common interests can help keep the costs down, and build conflict resolution skills as we navigate the terrain of differences to come to a final resolution.  Also, it’s important to “keep the main thing the main thing.”  Identify at the outset the issues that are really important, and be willing to let go of the issues that won’t be that impactful in the long run.

Conflict between the lawyers. 

  • I know it’s hard to believe, but lawyers are people too.  When we practice in a limited area like Divorce, we have a history with the other lawyers in our community.  People often think they want a pit bull who will attack the other side – but that usually only bodes well for the attorneys’ bank account.  When lawyers don’t get along,  you can bet there will be a lot of “nasty grams” (i.e., letters), a lot of posturing, and a lot bravado, all of which increases conflict and therefore increases fees dramatically.  Lawyers who work well together and focus on the clients can cut through the nonsense, and focus on the issues that matter.  A good working relationship between attorneys can yield tremendous cost savings and lead to faster and better resolutions as they streamline the issues and keep the focus on the things that matter.

Complexity of the Personalities. 

Complexity of the Property Issues. 

  • There are some property issues that will require experts from the outset.  If you have a substantial claim for separate property (i.e., extensive property owned before marriage), or you have a privately owned business interest or other unique assets, we may need to bring in a financial expert to help trace the separate property claims and/or value the business assets.  This will increase the amount of discovery that is done, as well as increase the length of time so that the expert can complete a valuation report.

Lack of Cooperation. 

  • The amount of information that is needed in a divorce can be overwhelming. Much of it is required by the Courts to be exchanged by the parties. So not providing the information completely, or in the format requested, and according to the timeline set in place by your attorney will cause unnecessary delays. Often, people mistakenly believe that certain information is not relevant for one reason or another (e.g., the account is in my name only, that is their debt not mine, it’s my retirement account not theirs, etc.). Or they only provide screenshots of account balances instead of full account statements. Or they don’t turn over the material timely and then we have to ask opposing counsel for more time. All of this creates delays and/or additional work, which costs you more money.

There is no question that divorce is expensive. While most of our clients report that the costs were ultimately “worth it,” nevertheless we do want to help our clients make the most of their resources when it comes to divorce. We do this by helping them understand the costs of taking certain actions, and by providing tools and resources to help them help us work efficiently and make informed decisions as their case progresses.

If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce, make sure you are having the conversations with your lawyer along the way about how you can help minimize unnecessary costs and make the most of your legal dollars.  A good attorney will be a partner with you in those efforts, and help you  financially prepare to live your best life as you begin your next chapter.