Rupert Murdoch’s 1999 divorce made history as the most expensive divorce settlement ever: $1.7 billion. Hopefully, most of us won’t come close to divorce costs of that magnitude, but with over 800,000 U.S. divorces annually, thousands of people are likely wondering, “How much does it cost to get a divorce?”
Litigious, Courtroom Divorce Costs
The legal fees and court costs for traditional litigated divorces can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. Most of this is spent on the attorneys in a contested divorce, but there are other out-of-pocket expenses as well. Other costs can include:
- Filing fees
- Parenting classes
- Service of Process
- Real estate appraisal(s)
- Expert Witnesses
- Deposition transcripts
In any divorce, a petition is filed and it must be “served” on the other spouse. If the spouse is cooperative, service can be a matter of signing a waiver in front of a notary or court clerk. But if the spouse is not cooperative (or if the filing spouse doesn’t bother to ask if the other spouse will sign the waiver of service), the papers will need to be served by a private process server or a sheriff’s deputy. Sometimes the documents are served at home and sometimes they are served at your workplace.
If you can’t agree on how to share time with your children while the divorce is pending, a temporary orders hearing in court might be necessary so a judge can determine where your children will live and how the time with them will be shared until the divorce is final.
The formal process of exchanging information in a law suit is known as Discovery and Disclosure. The Discovery and Disclosure process often take a great deal of time and adds to divorce costs, especially if either spouse isn’t forthcoming with information and the court must intervene to settle disagreements.
If the spouses are unable to reach settlement on their financial and child-related issues, the case goes to trial and the decisions are left to the judge. Not only does this come at a tremendous financial expense, but courtroom drama can be emotionally unhealthy, and the stress can cause physical damage in the form of anxiety, depression, stomach issues, etc.
Other pitfalls of litigated divorces include privacy concerns (divorces in Arizona are a matter of public record) and the impact of conflict on children (there is no doubt that children suffer if they are asked to “choose” a parent). If this type of divorce is not what you want, there’s another option.
The Case for Collaborative Divorce
The question you and your partner should ask each other first is, “How much conflict do we want?” Seriously, some couples are determined to have an adversarial divorce. Remember, the higher the level of conflict, the higher the costs (financially and emotionally) will be to finalize your divorce. Collaborative divorce allows you to work with a team of professionals who help you get through the process with as little conflict as possible.
Here are some other questions to help determine if collaborative divorce is the best choice for you:
- Are we willing to compromise on certain issues?
- Are we willing to seek guidance from a financial expert?
- Could we benefit from communications coaching?
- Can we co-parent?
- Do we want control of our divorce settlement or do we want a judge to control our divorce outcome?
- Do we want to protect and preserve our family unit?
- Do we trust each other?
- How quickly do we want divorce closure?
- What’s best for our kids?
Out of pocket expenses can be less with some divorce methods, but the results may prove to be disastrous later. If you want the best for each other and your family, today and tomorrow, collaborative divorce may be the right choice.
Divorce Costs Are Choices, Too
The kind of divorce you choose determines your divorce costs. This may be one of the truest quotes about litigious, court-based divorces ever:
Divorce lawyers stoke anger and fear in their clients, knowing that as long as the conflicts remain unresolved the revenue stream will keep flowing. -Craig Ferguson, Psychology Today
That’s the stark difference between traditional divorce and the collaborative divorce model. An uncontested, collaborative divorce is less about an ending and more about a new beginning. The professionals at Best Legal Choices will encourage divorcing couples to respect each other and to plan for their family’s future.
There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter collaborative divorce, and that’s the good news. To determine your divorce costs, talk with a collaborative divorce professional at Best Legal Choices today. Because collaborative divorce is faster and family-oriented, your divorce costs may be less than the cost of lawyer fees for traditional divorces. Contact Best Legal Choices for more information.