The Cost of Divorce: Three Processes
Perhaps the most important thing to say is that the costs of divorce can go way beyond money. Often, there is collateral damage to your relationships and the emotional costs – anxiety, fear and stress.
But you understandably are concerned about the dollar cost of your separation or divorce. And the cost is directly related to how you decide to do this. Many people, though, are confused by what the options are.
Basically, if you are not going to have a legal battle and a court trial (most people would like to avoid that if at all possible), there are three routes that you can take:
Litigation does not mean that you are necessarily fighting or going to trial. It may be that you are hiring a lawyer to negotiate your divorce on your behalf. The average cost of a litigated divorce is more than $25,000* – and much more if your case goes to trial.
The collaborative law approach to divorce involves each of you hiring your own “collaborative lawyer,” who agrees to work out the terms of your divorce without going to court.
While normally less expensive than traditional litigation, it typically involves the use of multiple professionals in addition to attorneys for both parties, including a divorce coach, a child development/parenting specialist, and an accountant. The result is that this route typically costs three times as much as a mediated divorce – on average, $19,000 – $20,000*.
The cost of mediation is significantly less than the alternatives. Like collaborative divorce, mediation is focused on cooperation and full disclosure. Again, like the other routes, parties are encouraged to at the least each consult with attorneys. Although parties have costs for their time with attorneys as well, the attorneys’ role is limited compared to the other options, and divorce mediation is still less expensive than the alternatives – on average, $6,000 – $7,000.
*The data comes from David Hoffman, an attorney and mediator whose Boston Law Collaborative group practices all three of the modalities named here. Another study, featured in the July 2005 issue of Money magazine, reported average divorce costs to be $3,000-10,000 for a divorce mediation, $16,000 for collaborative law, $35,000 for traditional attorney to attorney negotiation, and a minimum of $20,000-$50,000 for trial.