How Much Will A Divorce Cost?

 

Ask an attorney “How much does a divorce cost?”, and the response will always be the same. “It depends!”

What will it depend on? 

It depends on the duration of your divorce. 

What process you use for a divorce plays into the costs. 

A divorce with children typically costs more than a divorce without children. Should a divorce include dividing pensions and other retirement accounts that can drive up the cost for the participants as well. 

Regardless of how complex and or simplistic your finances may be with your spouse, the one factor that will drive up your cost faster than anything else is your…………….

Emotions. 

The #1 Driver of Divorce Costs 

The more you let your emotions run wild, the more you and your spouse will fight. The more you and your spouse fight, the more expensive your divorce will be. 

This statement is direct and to the point because this is how the divorce system works. 

Divorce attorneys in New York State charge between $100 - $650 an hour (https://www.lawyers.com/legal-info/family-law/new-york-divorce-how-much-does-it-cost-how-long-does-it-take.html). The more time they spend on your case, hearing about how is more at fault or the refusal to part with ancillary items the more billable hours your attorney will be charging you. 

How Much Will a Divorce Cost? 

According to a 2015 survey conducted by Lawyers.com (see the link above) the average New York State divorce cost $17,100, including $13,500 in attorney’s fees. This is 34% higher than the national average of $12,800 in total divorce costs, including $10,000 in attorney’s fees.

After attorney's fees, the rest of the total cost of a divorce comes from expenses, which may include fees for items such as court filings, mediation, and copying and serving documents. Expenses may also include compensation for expert witnesses and consultants, such as child custody evaluators, appraisers, or financial analysts. Average expenses in New York divorces were $3,600. 

This circles back to the issue of trying our hardest to keep our emotions in check. If you are proceeding with an attorney to get divorced, they are here to achieve the best property settlement for you according to the laws and statutes set forth by New York State Matrimonial Law. An attorney is not supposed to be your new best friend or therapist. This is not to discount having someone to talk to as emotions run high. Please understand that there is an hourly cost that comes with these conversations with your attorney. Stay focused on the task at hand, getting divorced. Do not dwell on and convey to your attorney the empty promises your spouse made during the marriage and failed to deliver. Discussions should be related to your case to save you time and money. There are more cost-efficient options out there to help with your emotions during the divorce process. 

10 Tips for Keeping Your Divorce Costs Under Control 

1. Mediation. 

I have written about the use of a mediator in a prior posting. A mediator is a neutral third party that will help achieve for you the same Property Settlement result as an attorney.  The mediators Property Settlement has to be in accordance with the laws and statutes set forth from New York State Matrimonial Law. A mediator will address the issues of custody if children are involved. Any issues that need to be resolved as the marriage unwinds are addressed if you are using a mediator just as they are if you are using an attorney.  Using a mediator will likely result in less stress, less time, and most importantly less of a cost to the participants. Please don’t feel that mediation is a solution to consider only if you and your spouse are on amicable terms.  Should both of you want to settle the divorce in a cost-efficient manner but may not always be the best with communication, still consider using mediation. 

One of Western New York’s best mediators is Steve Felman at Divorce Mediation Services of Buffalo (www.divorcemediationofbuffalo.com). Give him a call at 716-400-7286 and set up a time with Steve to explore if mediation is the cost-efficient solution for you and your divorce. 

2. Get a Therapist. 

Yes, getting a therapist costs money. But the money for their hourly rate is likely to be less than your attorneys’ hourly rate. A good therapist can help you get your emotions under control and help you understand the reasons why there is conflict with you and your spouse.  They will share constructive strategies to deal with these emotions and conflicts. The strategies a therapist will be sharing with you, may be able to help you communicate with each other in a manner that allows each of you to actually hear what the other person is saying. Armed with the right tools, strategies, and motivation (thus keeping costs down!!!) you can learn how to successfully communicate with your spouse. 

3. Talk to Your Spouse. 

Talking directly to your spouse cuts that expensive middleman (your attorneys) out of the conversation. This is not the road to travel if your spouse is violent, abusive, or can easily manipulate you. However, if you are able to have a semi-rational conversation with your spouse it can save you thousands of dollars in legal fees as there is less to argue about through your attorneys. 

4. Talk to Your Attorney. 

Your hiring an attorney to represent you and your financial future. You need to ask questions about what their strategy will be and what is the cost to you for its implementation. Should your attorney plan a strategy that involves multiple subpoenas and documentation requests, ask your attorney how much all of this will cost you. 

5. Get Organized. 

Your attorney will ask you for financial documents and you deliver them in a disorganized mess, add that to your bill!!! Take pride in your work! Organize what you are submitting instead of spending $100-$650 an hour for your attorney to organize it for you. 

6. Do Your Own Legwork. 

This sounds like it is a hassle, but it is not that complicated. 

A divorce is a document driven process. If you are even contemplating getting divorced, you are going to want to make copies/scans of five years of financial documents. This list will include tax returns, pension statements, retirement account statements, checking & savings account statements, credit card statements, and mortgage statements to name a few. Once you have gathered these documents, please store them in a secure and safe location. Doing this step now will save you money by not having your attorney chase these documents down from your spouse’s attorney. 

7. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. 

If there is an item that can be replaced without a large cost to you, let it go. Not everything in your divorce is worth fighting for. Paying your attorney an extra $350 because you are arguing over a $120 vacuum isn’t a pragmatic expense. Don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement. 

8. Educate Yourself. 

Be empowered to make the right decisions from a position of strength and knowledge. Do not make decisions off of emotions or best guesses. 

The more you will know in advance about divorce, the less time and money will be spent asking your lawyer basic questions. You will still need their legal advice to get through your divorce. This is why you are here unfortunately. Let the advice and billable hours derive from getting your property settlement acheived and completed. 

9. Use the Right Professional for the Right Problem. 

If you asked for help to hang pictures and you asked me to hand you a hammer to nail the hook on the wall. Instead I hand you a wrench.  You would very likely have a look of befuddlement on your face. As the saying goes, use the right tool for the job. 

Your attorney is not your therapist. A therapist will also charge less than your attorney does on an hourly rate. Also, your attorney probably has zero training in regards to mental health. Consider this scenario.  You place a call to your attorney venting about your soon to be ex-spouse is this, that and everything else.  Your attorney will probably listen. As the conversation wraps up, they will say to you to call your therapist if you have one or to consider working with one. When the call ends your attorney will be noting the time it took for this conversation that accomplished nothing but will bill you accordingly. 

Your attorney is not a financial advisor. They are here to get you the best settlement under New York State Matrimonial Law. Your attorney will not discuss the pros, cons and costs of every financial decision. Meet with a Certified Divorce Financial Advisor, CDFA to discuss the potential implications of your financial future of the property settlements that have been proposed. How will this settlement effect your financial future not just 5 months from now, but 5, 10, 15 years down the road. 

10. Be Reasonable. 

You are not going to get everything that you want. That is not how divorce (or life) works. If you receive a settlement offer that is close to where you have been advised it is going to end up, consider it!

I am also not saying that you should cave in to every outlandish demand or settlement offer your spouse proposes to you either. You do not need to walk away with nothing while your spouse gets everything. However, for divorce to get settled it involves compromise. Even though that compromise with your soon to be ex may not be at the top of your list of your favorite things to do. 

The worst thing you can do is dig your heels into the ground on principle if you are looking to minimize your divorce costs. Principles do matter. Should you find yourself resisting every possible compromise on principle, take a step back and look deep at what is going on. Chances are your emotions are getting in the way. 

 
Ronald Reinstein