In 2004, Parade Magazine reported that a typical American divorce costs $20,000-$50,000 in attorney fees! You can be sure that the cost is much higher today! Another, more recent article, reported that the average cost of a litigated divorce in California averages $45,000 for each party. Most of these costs are attorney fees, and in litigated divorces, attorney costs rise rapidly, and continue for a long time.
What is the “time line” of the average litigated divorce?
- Law suits and Counter-suits are filed
- Written questions are asked and must be answered in writing.
- Witnesses are questioned under oath.
- Lawyers prepare for trial.
- Lawyers arrange conferences with both sides and the Judge to try to settle the case.
All of this is very time consuming and costly.
(By this time most couples may seriously regret their decision to go to court for their divorce.)
Children sense the tension and may act up because the family is under a lot of stress.
More than 95% of cases get settled before the cases get to trial, often only hours or days before the trial is due to start. Think about it… all the cost of preparing for trial is only needed in less than 5% of divorce cases! After months, or sometimes years of time spent worrying about the children, taking time from work to visit lawyers, sometimes changing lawyers and feeling angry and frustrated, couples often finally realize that they would be better at resolving their problems than a judge would be.
They realize that the judge – a complete stranger who does not know the family and has a continuous line of divorcing couples coming through his or her courtroom– has heard it all before! It dawns on them that their case, unique to them, won’t be unique to the judge:
The couple could have saved thousands and thousands of dollars if they had settled their
differences through Mediation or Collaborative Law Practice BEFORE starting down the costly,
slippery slope of litigated divorce.
- Divorcing couples consult with each other with the assistance of a mediator or Collaborative Lawyer and work out their own solutions to their problems, coming to a mutually satisfactory agreement.
- All financial and other needed information is shared voluntarily.
- The cost of a Mediated or Collaborative divorce is a fraction of the cost of a litigated divorce.
Whichever process you choose, here are some suggestions that will help keep the costs down:
1. Focus on settling the case, not “having your day in court”.
Some people want to “have their day in Court” to tell their story to the judge. That rarely happens. Judges do not want to hear more than is necessary to decide the issues, and that almost never includes hearing the parties voice their complaints and their “story.” Nor will the judge right your spouse’s wrongs! Also, remember that judges don’t know everything.
The chances are that you and your spouse can come up with better solutions than the judge.
2. Manage your emotions. Focus on what counts.
Divorce is riddled with financial decisions. Some say that divorce is 75% financial and 25% emotional. Don’t let your emotions control your decisions. You can keep your divorce costs down by having clear objectives from the outset, and focusing on the interests of your family. You probably have more in common with your spouse than you realize. This is especially true when it involves your children who you both love.
3. Be flexible and be willing to compromise.
You can’t always have everything your way. When you and your spouse seem unable to agree on an issue, try to think of a solution that both of you can live with and that will best suit the children as well.
The last word:
Remember, that a judge may very well come up with decisions
that you both dislike, but which you will both have to obey!