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.
Originally, Alimony (sometimes called “maintenance” or “spousal support”) was designed for a system where the husband’s role was to support his wife. If a couple divorced, the husband continued to be responsible for supporting his ex-wife financially until she remarried.
In modern times, the purpose of alimony is to allow the recipient (usually the wife) to maintain financial independence and, if possible, to maintain a lifestyle similar to the lifestyle that she enjoyed during the marriage.
There are a number of types of alimony, designed for particular circumstances.
Ben and Clare were married for 18 years. Their daughter, a high school student, was 17 years old. Ben was a contractor who had made quite a good living until two years ago when the economy tanked. Before that Clare had occasional part time jobs and she volunteered for several charities. The glue that held this marriage together was Ben’s ability to support the family. When that started unraveling, so did the marriage.
Albert and Diane were married for 19 years before they decided to get divorced.
Soon after they married, they bought a one-bedroom condominium in a neighborhood that, at the time, was not very desirable. A few years later, the 2 bedroom apartment next door was up for sale and they bought it. They combined the two apartments into a 3 bedroom unit. Over the years, the neighborhood improved a lot and they had two children.
When they decided to divorce they came to me for mediation.
Their main issue was the apartment which was worth a lot more than what they paid for it. They agreed to divide it to the original 2 separate apartments, but they couldn’t agree on who would get the larger 2 bedroom which faced the street, and who would get the smaller 1 bedroom apartment which faced a brick wall. The children were preteens and old enough to have strong opinions: They both wanted to keep their own rooms!
Virtually all property that has been accumulated during the marriage (“marital property”) is subject to be divided between the divorcing husband and wife. Almost everything of value is considered property, including retirement plans and accounts.
There was an article in the New York Times (Feb 11) that reported about some trends and research about divorce and marriage divorce . Here is the address to access;