The average cost of divorce in the United States is $15,000. The good news is that the cost of a divorce can be managed just as you manage a household budget. That being said if you have assets and want to protect those assets your first concern should not be getting divorced as cheaply as possible. When it comes to getting a divorce, you may have to spend money to save money if you have a lot of assets to protect.
Going after a “cheap” divorce may have both short-term and long-term consequences. When negotiating the division of property, retirement benefits or the issue of spousal support it will pay to pay…if you know what I mean.
How much your divorce costs depends on the route you take when getting a divorce.
The length of your marriage and the complexities of your shared assets will play a role in how much your divorce will cost. The longer you've been together, the more assets and debts you have, the more likely it is you will spend a large sum of money trying to obtain a divorce.
Here are the four primary ways of getting a divorce along with their associated costs.
1. Divorce Court
If you and your spouse are unable to mediate and come to an agreement on such issues as property division, child custody or spousal support your next step will be divorce court. This is when it gets expensive. You will both hire attorneys and other experts to advocate for you in court. There will be court fees and filing fees to pay. You will pay your attorney by the hour and the cost of that depends on what area of the country you live in.
If you are lucky you will both hire attorneys willing to work together to reach an agreed settlement. If you aren’t you will become the victim of adversarial attorneys who will drag out the divorce and when this happens costs become excessive.
Divorce mediation is an effective alternative to court litigation for resolving disputes that come up as two people divorce. A mediator, acting as an impartial third party, helps couples work through the issues of their divorce to reach a mutually agreeable settlement.
In most states, mediation is a voluntary process that allows couples to retain control over the outcome of their divorce without hiring attorneys and going to divorce court. The only cost associated with a mediated divorce is the cost of the mediator, fees paid to have an attorney review the agreement and filing fees with the court.
For mediation to be successful it takes two parties willing to negotiate every aspect of their divorce settlement.
3. Do It Yourself
Pro Se divorce litigation means you are representing yourself in your divorce case, without an attorney. The procedures that you must follow are the same if you are represented by an attorney, except you will be responsible for filling out and filing all the legal forms. The only costs associated with Pro Se Litigation are filing fees and court costs should you go to divorce court and represent yourself.
To be a successful Pro Se litigant time will need to be spent on learning your state's divorce laws. You will also need to familiarize yourself with your local family court rules of procedure for Family Court cases. Obtaining a divorce without an attorney is a lot of work but, if you can't afford an attorney it is your best option.
4. Collaborative Divorce
In a Collaborative Divorce, there will be two attorneys, two Collaborative Coaches, a Divorce Financial Specialist and if you have children a Child Specialist. Although Collaborative Divorce can be expensive, in the long run, it is far less expensive than a long, drawn-out litigated divorce. During the Collaborative process, you pay each specialist their own hourly rate but there are no court fees or filing fees associated with the process.
The cost of your divorce will depend on which of the above methods you choose. Mediation is, by far, the least expensive way to navigate the divorce process. A divorce mediator will charge from $100 an hour to a couple of $100 an hour. If both spouses are willing to negotiate and work together on the terms of the divorce, a good mediator can get his/her job done in a few hours.
Compare that to the thousands of dollars you will spend in divorce court or with a Collaborative Divorce team, and mediation is your best bet for holding down the cost of divorce.