I struggle with how to answer this question. How about a standard lawyer’s weasel:
- It depends on where you are.
- It depends on how much conflict you have with your spouse.
- It depends on how you do it.
- It depends on how complex your affairs are.
- Most importantly, though, it depends on whether you stay in control.
It depends on where you are.
The cost of divorce varies widely from state to state, and even from region to region within a state. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have any reliable statistics on which states and regions have lower costs than others.
It’s safe to say, though, that if you have a choice of getting divorced in one state rather than another, it pays to ask around in both states to see if one area is substantially less expensive than another.
It depends on how much conflict you have with your spouse.
There are all kinds of great reasons to keep the conflict between you and your spouse at a minimum. Controlling cost is only one reason. But it’s a good reason.
A high level of conflict will keep either of you from trusting the other. That means you will have trouble negotiating effectively. And that means you’ll be dependent on the judge to resolve everything between you. Do you hear the meter running?
When the level of conflict between the two of you is high, you usually can’t communicate with each other effectively, so you communicate through your lawyers. That means you’ll talk about your lawyers’ issues, at your lawyers’ pace, and at your lawyers’ hourly rates. Now do you hear the meter running?
It depends on how you do it.
There are four basic ways you can get divorced. I’ve listed them in order of how much they generally cost. The no-lawyer divorce is almost always the cheapest, and the adversarial divorce is almost always the most expensive.
- You can do a no-lawyer divorce.
- You can do an uncontested divorce.
- You can do a mediated divorce.
- You can do an adversarial divorce.
Here’s a useful infographic on The True Cost of Divorce in America (with some eye-popping numbers for adversarial divorce) from Connecticut family lawyer William J Neary.
It depends on how complex your affairs are.
This one is just common sense, isn’t it? If you and your spouse have simple affairs, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be able to complete your divorce with a minimum of time and expense.
Interestingly enough, though, my experience is sometimes just the opposite. Sometimes it’s the couple who have nothing to fight over, and no business spending money on their divorce, who dig in their heels and refuse to talk to each other. That means they give upcontrol of their divorce to their lawyers.
Months later, thousands of dollars in legal fees later, they come to see me and we work it out smoothly and quickly. But by then, the money is already gone.
If you have complex affairs, you really do need to get some extra help. Of course both of you should have a lawyer to advise you. You’ll probably need to have a CPA, maybe even a CPA for each of you. You may need financial planners, bankers, business valuators, insurance brokers, and perhaps a therapist or two. But even with the need to involve so many professionals, you can still keep control of your divorce. Consider using a financial preparation kit. This will allow you to skip the discovery money pit, give you a common database of accurate information, and help the two of you get down to the issues that matter quickly and efficiently.
It depends on whether you stay in control.
I know you’re sick of hearing about this already. But there’s just no substitute for staying in control of your divorce.