Major Factors in Determining the Cost of Divorce
How much will it cost? How long with it take? These are the two questions I am always asked by prospective clients. I wish I had a good answer. The best I can say is that ‘divorce goes as slow as the slowest person.’ What does that mean? It depends.
The more elements there are, the more complicated the divorce process is. The more complicated the process, the more expensive it will be.
Suppose you’re a couple with no children and few assets or a larger pool of assets that are easily divisible (bank accounts for example). In that simple case, two reasonable people can easily mediate the divorce or do it yourself with limited legal guidance.
Take the case above, however, when one of the spouses doesn’t want the divorce. They make it very difficult to meet with a mediator or they don’t agree to a simple split. Now the process takes longer. Meetings with the mediator don’t yield any agreements and you’re going back several times, increasing the costs.
If you have children, you’ll also be negotiating a Parenting Agreement. Once again, two reasonable people with the best interest of their children at heart can likely mediate an agreement fairly quickly. If a battle ensues, this can be a very different story.
My typical clients have young children, a home and some financial accounts. That sounds like it could be a fairly straight forward negotiation, however, if the house has a mortgage, there are several retirement accounts and pensions, and one of the parents wants full custody while the other wants joint, now you have greater potential for a longer, conflict-ridden divorce process.
A simple way to estimate the costs is to start with the assumption that the biggest portion of the cost is the attorney or mediator. The longer the divorce process takes, the more it will cost.
Here are the major factors that will affect the cost of your divorce:
The process you choose. Mediation with two reasonable individuals is markedly less expensive than litigation where you both hire attorneys and duke it out.
The number of attorneys. Some attorneys work in pairs, one senior, one junior. You’ll likely be billed for both of them when they’re both in the room. If you’re hiring an attorney, your spouse likely will too. Cha-ching!
Whether or not you have children. Putting together a Parenting Plan is an enormous undertaking. Who gets Christmas Eve vs. Christmas day? Who can pick up the children from school? What if Janey gets sick? The list of issues to negotiate is long, the negotiations, are longer.
The complexity of the assets and debts. Let’s say your marital pot is $1 million-plus a home. If the cash is in a couple of investment accounts and the home has no mortgage, that would be simple to divide. What if the accounts are located in different countries? What if the home has a mortgage and a HELOC? That becomes more complicated.
How accessible financial information is. If your spouse is loath to give you the financial documents your missing or worse, you strongly suspect there’s more than meets the eye? Now you’re adding subpoenas and investigations.
The number and type of assets. Do you own valuable artwork, jewelry, wine, cars, all of that have to get appraised? Who chooses the appraiser? How long does the appraisal take? What if you don’t agree with the valuation?
The emotional and mental state of the parties. This goes back to my mantra ‘divorce goes as slow as the slowest person.’ If one of the parties decides they don’t want to get divorced or they are so angry that they sabotage any efforts to move the process along, unfortunately, you could be in for a long ride.
As you embark on your divorce, knowing what may cause a stumbling block helps you prepare. You don’t have to expect the worst, at least you’ll know what to look out for.
If you’re planning to get divorced and want some guidance on how to mitigate the risks of a long divorce as best you can, schedule a Clarity Session and we can put together a Divorce Action Plan.
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