How to Avoid the High Cost of Divorce
Whether you've been married for many years or just a few, the decision to divorce is never easy. Not only is there emotional pain, but a divorce can be strenuous on your finances as well. If you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse agree to the divorce and want an amicable dissolution, there are ways to sidestep the courtroom and lower the financial and emotional cost of divorce.
In litigated or contested divorces, where details are hashed out in court for a judge to decide, the average divorce can cost between $15,000 and $30,000. In a collaborative divorce, the couple signs a participation agreement stating they will not go to court. Instead, they will work with a team of attorneys for each spouse to resolve their issues. A collaborative divorce could cut your costs anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent, according to Money Crashers.
If you know you'll have difficulty agreeing on a division of property, child custody, etc., consider hiring an independent, third-party mediator who will work with both of you to come to a divorce settlement agreement. You can expect to pay between $3,000 and $7,000 for a mediated divorce. Arbitration is another option to avoid the cost of going to court. A third-party arbitrator makes binding decisions about issues in your divorce that you and your spouse must adhere to. Expect to pay between $3,000 and $4,000 per day for arbitration.
Do Your Homework
Divorce proceedings are regulated by state laws. DivorceSupport.com offers links to each state's requirements including residency rules, grounds for divorce, the division of property, child custody, support and visitation, and spousal support or alimony.
Even in an amicable divorce, divorce attorneys provide expert insight on situations you may overlook, and work to ensure your financial future remains secure. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has tips on selecting a divorce lawyer which includes questions you should ask and a free online client handbook on divorce.
To save on legal costs, hire a lawyer who charges a flat fee for your divorce case. That way you won't have to watch the clock and billable hours every time you call or meet to discuss your case. If your lawyer charges hourly, ask for frequent updates on the costs you have incurred.
Legal fees are the biggest cost in any divorce. Like other legal documents, you can also file your own divorce papers. You don't technically need a lawyer. DIY works only in uncontested, no-fault agreements — meaning both parties agree on all matters including the decision to divorce, property division, child custody, etc. You can download the necessary forms from your state or county court websites for free.
If you're not sure which forms to download, you can go the online divorce route. Online divorce programs, ranging from $49 to $949, ask a series of questions to walk you through all of the paperwork applicable to your divorce. You'll enter your information online and then print and sign the forms. Some programs even provide professional assistance from divorce attorneys, financial advisors, and co-parenting experts at an additional cost. Compare Legal Forms reviewed the best online divorce forms. Regardless of which online program you choose, you'll still need to file your divorce papers with your local court and pay filing fees — $150 to $300 on average.
Arriving at the divorce table with mutual respect and agreement helps start the next chapter of your life on a secure emotional and financial footing.