During my initial consultation with a client, there is one question he or she almost always asks: How much does a divorce cost? It’s a very difficult question to answer because there are so many factors involved in a divorce case, and those factors are what dictates the cost.
Here are 8 factors that can have an impact on the cost of a divorce:
1. If a couple has children, there are many costs related to them. These include daily living expenses, educational expenses, and extracurricular activity expenses such as sports teams, fine arts lessons, and other after-school activities. If a child or the children attend private school, there must be a decision regarding how tuition and fees are paid. There are also religious expenses, such as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah or religious school. Children might also have medical expenses. There is also summer camp, and of course, college.
During a divorce, it takes time to sort out who is going to be responsible for paying for what and how much. Parents might have different opinions on what they think is fair/right. Coming to these agreements could take several mediation sessions, or several weeks or months of negotiating. If the couple refuses to agree on certain items, they might have to resort to litigation, which costs more money. That is why I am always in favor of mediation or the collaborative divorce process versus litigation.
2. When a couple has high net worth, the divorce can become more expensive as the division of investments, retirement accounts, property and more can be costly and carry unexpected fees such as buyer/seller fees for any transaction needed in the process of dividing material wealth. It might also take longer. In my experience collaborative process offers couples greater flexibility and opportunity to arranger their financial assets that is most beneficial to them. Unfortunately, in the litigated process the judge is limited only to what the statute governing marriages and divorces permits.
3. One spouse might have immense anger and resentment, and actually want to fight through the process of divorce. Conflict always leads to higher costs in a divorce because of back and forth discussions between the two divorce attorneys, or again, possibly litigation and numerous court appearances. The court system is not set up as a forum to help address our emotional needs.
4. If a couple has no other choice than to litigate the divorce, it will be more expensive than if they chose mediation or the collaborative divorce process. Litigated divorces also require discovery and that process can add considerable expense and time.
5. Sometimes one spouse must conduct searches for hidden assets, or obtain a forensic review and accounting of the assets, and that adds considerably to the cost of divorce. Having to hire professionals to uncover marital assets can be time-consuming, frustrating and expensive.
6. Some spouses are simply disorganized and look to their attorney to guide them through the process. Ideally, spouses have access to all accounts and files so that the attorneys don’t have to research them and spend time gaining access to them.
7. Attorneys who are sensitive to the cost of divorce will offer resources that might reduce the overall expense of a divorce. These attorneys might suggest utilizing an associate attorney who bills at a lower hourly rate, they might also suggest a forensic accountant to assist with the financial accounting instead of leaning on discovery which adds to the cost two-fold since it must be undertaken by both parties.
An attorney can also recommend a therapist and or a divorce coach so that the client has a source of emotional support for times when he or she is struggling. Calling a divorce attorney for emotional support isn’t a good idea for two reasons: you are paying the attorney’s hourly rate, and the divorce coach and therapist focus on emotional support and therapy, whereas the divorce attorney do not.
8. Use a financial neutral to understand and divide the financial resources instead of requiring attorneys to use discovery, which can be very expensive. Financial neutral can help you become familiar with your assets and full financial picture and feel more confident making the many, often complicated, financial decisions of a divorce.
Any divorce can become financially complicated, but with good decision making, knowledge of the process, and picking the right divorce process and the right divorce attorney to assist you, the costs associated with divorce can be managed. The best way to do this is to start from the beginning, working to economize and remain organized and look for ways to make sound financial decisions without conflict.
As I stated above, I always encourage my clients to consider mediation and collaborative divorce process as means of having a better divorce outcome and saving money in the divorce process. That said, there are countless other benefits to mediation and the collaborative process, which include improved communication between the divorcing parties, better emotional health for everyone-including the kids, and outcomes in which YOU have a say.
Anna P. Krolikowska, an attorney in the Northbrook law firm of Anna P. Krolikowska P.C, focuses her practice in the area of family law. Anna realizes that importance and the impact family law matters have not only on her clients, but also on their families. From divorce and child custody to any judgment modifications, Anna considers the unique circumstances of each case to develop a course of action designed specifically to address each client’s unique needs.
As a litigator, trained mediator, and a collaborative professional, Anna is able to offer to her clients diverse, and creative approaches to resolving marital disputes.
Anna realizes that family law matters are very difficult for all individuals involved. She strives to treat each client with respect at all times and to provide each client with attention and time they require. She works diligently to maintain open lines of communication, and provide creative options to resolving her clients’ concerns.
In addition to her practice, Anna is President-Elect of the Illinois State Bar Association which oversees the operations and management of ISBA, a state-wide voluntary association of more than 30,000 attorneys who strive to educate and serve the public, and improve the practice of law. She is a 2019 Honoree of the “40 Under Forty” award. The award honors 40 attorneys each year. In June 2021 she became the President of the ISBA, making her the 5th female president since its founding in 1877. To learn more about Anna and her services, visit her website, or call: (847) 715-9328.