Divorces might be common, but that doesn’t mean that they are cheap. Even if you end up on the “winning” end of a divorce, you may need to give up your nest egg to get there. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can save money and get an affordable divorce.
The Real Cost of Divorce
It’s difficult to pinpoint the average cost of divorce in the US. Because incomes vary so greatly and every divorce is unique, it’s not as easy as picking a number. In 2006, the average cost of a contested divorce was $15,000 to $30,000. When you consider that an hourly rate of most lawyers costs hundreds of dollars and the average divorce case lasts for several months (or longer), it’s easy to see how the fees add up. The average divorce takes about ten months, and the costs pile up.
Why do divorces cost so much and take so long? Divorces have become very complicated. There are hedge funds and other complex accounting details to consider, and lawyers often need to call in specialists to examine the details. There are custody, child support, alimony, and reimbursement claims issues to consider before you can put your divorce to rest. It takes time to iron out all of the details, and that time is money spent.
Ways To Lessen The Burden
There are different ways that you can go about getting an affordable divorce. Here are a few of them:
1. An Online Divorce
Although this method is by far the cheapest (it can cost as little as $29), it’s also not always a good option. Online divorces work best when they involve couples who have been married for less than two years and couples who don’t have children. That’s because the digital divorce services don’t offer you any legal advice. You and your partner need to agree on how you will divide everything; there’s no mediator or arguing. If you and your partner can’t come to an agreement, an online divorce isn’t an option.
2. Have a Conversation
This option might be easier said than done. But before you go through an expensive legal battle, you may be able to work out some details with your partner. Talk about the big issues in the divorce process and see if you can agree on anything. Make a list of the issues you can’t agree on, and bring that to a mediator. An affordable divorce becomes possible when there’s an open line of communication.
Mediation can lower the cost of divorce from tens of thousands of dollars to only a few thousand. For this to work, there needs to be communication. You and your partner discuss the issues surrounding your divorce while a mediator is present. Then, the mediator guides you and your partner and helps you come up with a solution for the issues you couldn’t agree on. After everything is settled, the mediator creates a final agreement. You should have a lawyer review the agreement, but you save thousands of dollars on court and lawyer fees by going through a mediator.
The problem with mediation arises when emotion gets in the way. Some people are unwilling to listen to a mediator and are unwavering with their demands. In cases where one or both individuals won’t make certain concessions, mediation is ineffective.
4. Collaborative Law
A more recent development in affordable divorce is collaborative law. Each partner and their lawyers sign an agreement. The agreement states that the parties will settle the divorce without litigation. While each lawyer has their client’s best interest at heart, they focus more on working together with the opposition than fighting. If the attempt at collaboration fails, the lawyers resign, and the couple starts over with new lawyers.
The benefit of collaborative law is the speed. Because it’s quicker than litigation, the fees are lower. The price varies but ranges between $10,000 and $15,000. Another benefit is the motivation to finish the process. Signing the agreement makes sure that you and your partner follow through with the divorce.
Other Affordable Divorce Tips
Even if you need to litigate, there are other ways that you can lower the cost of your divorce. For one, you can find a lawyer that you trust. Don’t go with the first lawyer that you meet. Instead, take meetings with several different lawyers. Find one or two who seem trustworthy, and hire them for a consultation. This can give you a better feel for who they are and how they work. A trustworthy lawyer means that you don’t have to worry about paying for hours that shouldn’t have been billed in the first place.
Another important tip is to keep the process as short as possible. Don’t drag out meetings with unnecessary details. Keep everything short and sweet, and your lawyer’s billable hours will be lower. Having a reliable lawyer also helps with expediting your divorce case.
Whether you use a mediator or a lawyer, you can achieve an affordable divorce.