SAN DIEGO, September 29, 2013 – The number one concern for couples facing divorce is the cost.
The online legal directory Avvo.com surveyed 890 of their consumer users and 447 attorneys. The results: the cost of divorce was the biggest concern for 58 percent of individuals without children. Other top concerns included property division (42 percent), the length of time a divorce would take (27 percent) and alimony (22 percent).
For couples with children, child custody is their greatest concern, but cost is second. Cost is also the top factor that influences which attorney the individuals hire to represent them.
Cost is a concern no matter the income level or property assets of the individuals involved.
Two-thirds of couples hire attorneys to handle their divorce; 35 percent represent themselves, or use some kind of alternative “do it yourself” or guided services. But handling your own divorce does not necessarily save any money. One in ten attorneys in the survey say they ended up being hired by someone to take over a divorce case he or she tried to handle themselves.
Along with cost, the experience and individual style or personality of the attorney are important factors in hiring a divorce attorney. A personal recommendation is highly influential.
How much should a divorce cost you? This is like asking how much a car should cost, or a meal. You can buy a cheaply made small car, or you can buy a solidly made luxury SUV that burns a lot of fuel. You can get a meal from a fast-food drive through window, or sit down at an expensive steakhouse. It’s all about your requirements and your needs.
It is said that getting divorced should cost you about the same as getting married. But since the cost of weddings vary wildly, this isn’t much help to you either.
In general the average divorce figure is considered to be roughly $15,000 to $20,000 for an average divorce. The problem is that almost no divorce is “average.”
Costs involved in a divorce
What you do need to know is the fees and costs you can expect to pay. These include:
- Your attorney’s fees
- Court costs
- Fees for professional evaluations by financial or psychological professionals
- Costs for mediation or education
Costs will increase if there is real property such as a home involved. Costs also increase at a rapid rate the longer it takes to come to a settlement agreement. Time is money in a divorce.
There are several ways you can minimize the cost of your divorce.
- Be civilized. If you can manage to be polite and cooperate with your ex-spouse, you will be able to come to an agreement much more quickly and this means lower costs. If you can work out the major issues in a settlement agreement between you, your attorney can spend his or her time where it really counts, putting together the legal details.
- Move quickly. Don’t let decision-making drag along. The more arguing and the more indecision you engage in, the more time your attorney will have to spend on your case.
- Be honest. Disclose all of the information your attorney needs. Don’t keep secrets. If they come out, your case will end up needed to be re-examined and re-discussed.
- Understand what you are agreeing to. Divorces can involve many complex consequences, especially financial consequences. It is better to spend a little extra time and money being sure you understand your settlement and asking your attorney to provide clarity up front. Otherwise, you may end up back in court with more legal fees trying to sort things out.
- Sign a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement when you get married. Let sensible and practical take precedence over romance in this case. Coming to an agreement that governs a possible dissolution of the marriage later will save a great deal of time and money. Work these issues out when everyone’s attitude is at its most generous and optimistic. This is especially important when children from previous marriages or relationships and property are involved.
A marriage is the biggest contract you’ll ever enter into. You would never buy a house or enter a business partnership without a contract, but people enter into marriages all the time without one. Does that make sense? Work with an experienced family law attorney and consider it an investment in your future happiness and well-being.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra.
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