The Unexpected Factors That Drive Up The Cost Of Divorce
There are many questions that run through your head as you are preparing for divorce. One thing everyone wants to know is what the final cost of divorce will end up being.
It turns out that is a loaded question and is practically impossible to answer. The reason it is so difficult to determine how much your divorce will cost is because every case is unique. On the Internet, you will find the average cost of divorce listed anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 or more, which will vary depending on whether it is a contested divorce or a more amicable one. Without knowing all the specific details of the case, it is difficult to determine what divorce services will be needed and impossible to provide an accurate estimate of the total cost.
What’s more, divorce can end up hitting your wallet well after your decree is issued. Many people make the mistaken assumption that their divorce tasks are finished once the final papers are signed, but there is a whole list of post-divorce responsibilities you must take care of and, as you’ll see, a number of divorce expenses can continue to pile up even years after you and your wife have parted ways.
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Cost of divorce factors
The most basic divorce expenses are administration and court fees, which vary by state. At the start of a divorce action, the initial filing fee will cost you anywhere from less than $100 to more than $400. Additionally, there will be fees to file various documents with the court during the divorce process.
Unless you plan on a do-it-yourself divorce, which can go awry even when you and your ex are on amicable terms, you need to consider the cost of hiring a divorce lawyer.
The first fee that an attorney will charge is for the initial consultation. Some lawyers offer free consultations, but most experienced attorneys charge between $100 and $200, or will charge their normal hourly rate.
This might seem like a hassle, but it is extremely important to get the most out of your consultation. This is your chance to feel out the attorney and determine if he or she is a good fit for you. Effective attorney-client communication is one of the most effective ways to limit how much your divorce costs.
When you first hire a divorce attorney, you will likely pay a retainer fee for their divorce services. Some attorneys require a flat retainer, which typically start at around $5,000, while others base the fee on the complexity of the case and needs of the individual.
Divorce attorneys also charge either a flat fee or hourly rate. With a flat-fee arrangement, you can expect to pay between $900 and $6,000. The logic behind a flat fee is that it provides some certainty regarding the overall cost of divorce. You do not have to stress about whether or not a 20-minute phone call to your lawyer is worth the additional expense.
Other attorneys use an hourly fee structure. Hourly fees can range from around $50 per hour to upwards of $700, depending on where you live and the attorney’s experience and credibility.
Generally, you can expect to pay around $250 per hour. Also keep in mind that a lawyer’s hourly fee is not necessarily an indicator of their abilities as an attorney.
Contentious issues increase costs
As you are preparing for divorce, consider the number of issues you are going to have to work out. There is usually a laundry list of issues that must be decided before a divorce goes final – dividing assets, figuring out alimony and child support, agreeing on child custody, etc. If you are expecting a contested divorce, you can expect to pay more.
The more of these issues that you and your wife can agree on, the lower the cost will end up being. However, when you cannot resolve these standing issues, your attorney fees will quickly accumulate.
When you approach the divorce process, it is crucial to go into it with a clear and rational head, regardless of how your ex behaves. One of the biggest reasons costs skyrockets so easily is that the process causes otherwise rational people to act emotionally and erratically to try to get back at their ex.
Before putting up a strong fight over one of your belongings that you feel should be yours, think about whether or not it is worth the time, money, and stress or if it would be easier to just move on and get through your case quicker. Stuff can always be replaced. It might be in your best interest to move on and get through the divorce process with as few headaches as possible.
There are instances you need to put your foot down to avoid getting taken to the cleaners in your case, but if you and your ex are able to come to terms on the most important issues and avoid court, it will likely save you a significant sum of money.
Regardless of whether you were only married for a few months or a couple decades, you still will have some amount of property that you will need to divvy up during the divorce process.
How property is divided will depend on whether you live in a community property or equitable distribution state. In community property states, both parties are assumed to equally share all income, property, and debts accumulated during the marriage. In equitable distribution states, the court looks at a variety of factors in determining a “fair and equitable” division of all marital property.
Generally speaking, everything acquired during marriage is considered marital property and up for division while separate property belongs to just one spouse and was generally owned prior to marriage.
Either way, the fact of the matter is you are likely going to lose some of your stuff and take on some debt. To make sure you do not end up getting a raw deal during the division of property, it is essential to have an experienced divorce lawyer in your corner to make sure you get out of the marriage with what is rightfully yours.
Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.
Post-decree divorce expenses
The hit to your wallet is not necessarily over once you and your ex reach a settlement. Depending on the issues in your case, you might be left with child support or alimony payments for years to come.
As a married father, you already were providing financial support for your children, so in theory, that is money you already were spending. Unfortunately, the modern child support system has a way of decimating a dad’s finances more than they ever expected.
Child support places a heavy emphasis on the collection of payments, which sounds good in theory but becomes counterproductive when it hits low-income parents (typically fathers) especially hard.
If a father finds himself unexpectedly unemployed, or making substantially less money than when the child support order was issued, his payments do not automatically pause or decrease. Unless he files for a child support modification, arrears can rapidly accumulate and before he realizes it he is stuck in a cycle of debt. The same is true for alimony or spousal maintenance payments.
For that reason, it is vital upon any substantial change in income to file for modification as quickly as possible. Child support modifications are confusing to many guys, so they will again need to hire an attorney to guide them through the process. Although likely much less expensive than the cost to handle the initial settlement, this is just another factor that contributes to the overall cost.
Alimony and spousal support is a problem in and of itself. Fortunately, the majority of states have done away with permanent alimony, which left men writing checks to their wives for the rest of their lives.
Nonetheless, there are some quirks concerning alimony law, such as the alimony recapture rule, that can catch you off-guard and cost you more than you were expecting if you are not careful.
Intangible cost of divorce
Divorce impacts your bank account, but it also has a number of intangible costs that a lot of guys fail to consider.
For one, your social life is going to completely change. You and your wife likely shared many of the same friends, and in the wake of divorce it is common for those acquaintances to pick sides depending on who they were closer to. Your true friends undoubtedly will stick by your side, but you should be prepared to lose touch with some people who previously played an important role in your life.
Your living situation also is going to dramatically change now that you are back to living the bachelor life. Previously, with two sources of income, you might have been able to afford a much larger house. Now that you are supporting yourself and potentially making monthly child support and alimony payments, you might have to consider downsizing to a smaller townhome or an apartment, depending on your income.
A lot of guys allow their identity to become tied to their wife while they are married and that can be very difficult to reconcile after divorce. It is such a drastic change that the intangible cost of divorce ends up being more difficult for a lot of men to adjust to than the monetary expense.
While adjusting to this new lifestyle is often a painful transition, it is important to keep in mind that the period following divorce can be used as a time to reinvent yourself. Although there are major intangible and financial costs associated with divorce, you now have more personal freedom than you ever did while married, and you should use that independence to better yourself.
As previously stated, the most effective way to reduce your divorce expenses is by settling outside of court. Litigation is expensive, so if you and your wife can work together to sort through as many issues as possible, you both will save money.
You also will want to do whatever you can to minimize attorney fees. The best way to do this is by staying organized so that you make every interaction with your attorney count. Rather than calling or emailing every time you have a question, save them all up for one call or message per week.
You also might consider utilizing mediation, as this is one of the most effective ways to reach a fair settlement. Granted, this does involve paying a mediator by the hour, but it still can save you in the long run if it helps you avoid going to court.
Consider the ramifications as you’re preparing for divorce
Divorce is typically life-altering. It can take years for a man to fully recover financially, and the intangible cost of divorce forever changes aspects of his lifestyle.
That is why the decision to divorce should never be taken lightly or made haphazardly. Avoid falling into a grass-must-be-greener mentality. Exhaust all efforts to work through your problems with your wife, including going to counseling, before moving forward with divorce. Truly consider all the possible ramifications of divorce, because your life will never be the same once you make the decision to end your marriage.
However, that should not necessarily prevent someone from pursuing divorce. If your marriage is unhappy and truly cannot be salvaged, then divorce is probably unavoidable regardless of whatever financial hardship it might cause. With so much at stake, you can see why it actually takes a great deal of courage to pursue divorce.
If you have come to the realization that divorce is the right decision for you, it is a good idea to get in touch with a family law attorney as soon as possible to go over your options. An attorney’s divorce services are one of the most significant divorce expenses, but it is crucial to ensure your rights are protected. Making sure you have an experienced divorce lawyer in your corner to represent your point of view can go a long way towards lowering the cost of divorce in the long run.
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