One of the biggest concerns of divorcing couples is timing and cost. While every case is different, there are some general cost ranges which can be projected depending on a couple’s assets and whether there are children. The good news is that as one of the two parties to the divorce, you can control the expenses and costs based on the decisions you make. However, you cannot control the actions of your spouse, opposing counsel, or the judge. This article examines a collection of typical divorce cases, and explains what the anticipated expenses incurred in each case will be. In the end, you can be the greatest driver of how much the dissolution proceedings will cost and there are many methods to help keep costs down.
The cost of highly contested high net worth divorces – The worst case situation.
In a worst case situation, where there are significant assets, family businesses, large income streams, children, and the case is heavily contested by both parties, and attorneys are engaged in extensive discovery exchanges and protracted litigation, legal fees can easily ramp from $50k to $100K+ per side. In these high net worth maritial dissolutions, some parties will often pursue very aggressive legal tactics and fight each and every possible issue as a way to punish the other side and drive up legal fees.
These cases are the exception, however, and not by any means the norm. Moreover, simply because you are a wealthy couple does not automatically require that you spend this amount of money on your divorce.To the contrary, high net worth individuals who are willing to cooperate on most issues can certainly reach a final divorce decree for far less than $50,000.
Couples divorcing with significant assets, incomes and children – The mid-range divorce cost estimate.
For couples with somewhat smaller asset bases, one primary earner and the usual child custody issues, average divorce costs will trend lower. Assuming both parents have hired lawyers who then conduct contested pretrial discovery, which culminates in a live evidentiary trial on the merits before a state court judge, costs will range from $25,000 to $50,000 per side. Again, the more one party or lawyer digs in on certain issues, the longer the duration of the case, and the higher the costs will trend.And the reverse is true as well: the more you and your lawyer are willing to compromise on issues, the lower your final expenses and costs will be in finalizing the divorce and moving on with your life.
The good news is that most divorces are not anywhere near this expensive. In fact, if there are no children, the costs will drop even more.
Couples divorcing with modest assets and children – The most common divorce cost estimate.
Assuming both spouses have decent employment histories and a modest asset base, which includes the marital home, a few cars and retirement accounts, a divorce under those circumstances can usually be completed for $7,500 to $20,000 per side. Again, having no children dramatically reduces the amount of issues that either party can contest. But even if children are in the mix, it does not necessarily mandate that the expenses must be driven higher. These cases really come down to a close examination of what either party has earned, or can earn in the future—and then fairly splitting all remaining community and real property on a 50/50 basis. Sometimes this requires the sale of the marital home, or liquidation of certain investments or accounts. No two cases are the same, which is why having your own lawyer is preferred so that you know your rights and assets are being properly and fairly divided between you and your former spouse.
Cost of uncontested divorces or couples with limited assets – The best case situation.
Finally are the divorces which are relatively clean and simple. Both parties want out. Both parties are eager to resolve things quickly and with relative ease. In these cases, there are limited legal issues because there may be limited assets, just one child, or no children.With fewer assets to evaluate and split, even with lawyers on both sides, resolution can be reached for as little as $3,500 to $7,500 dollars per side. Again, as one of the spouses pursuing the divorce—your decision to dig in and fight, or let things go, as the case moves forward, will be the key driver or containment factor on fees and expenses.In some situations, where there are almost no contested issues and the two spouses can agree to settle all issues without court hearings or a live trial, the final expenses can certainly be less than $3,500 per side.
Important considerations in controlling divorce costs and timing…
Every divorce starts and eventually ends regardless of the time and money spent.Regardless of how your case advances, keep your eye on the end game: securing your Divorce Decree and, if there are children, a Joint Parenting Plan.Both of these documents are binding court orders, signed by a judge and enforceable by either party for years to come.In the end the expenses and bills will be a distant memory, but the Decree and Joint Parenting Plan will impact you for years ahead, and those documents and final judgments should be taken seriously.Getting a divorce is not the time to “wing it” or feel your way through this complex legal process. Having competent legal counsel on your team is critical and is no different than hiring a dentist to resolve your teeth issues or engaging a licensed physician to aid your health.In a divorce, the licensed attorney is there to help you unwind and exit a failed marriage, ideally with your assets, your children and life substantially intact at the lowest cost allowed by your particular case.
Contact us for a complimentary consultation about your divorce: Call 480-240-0040.