It’s a great question. And a question for which everyone wants to know the answer, but no one seems to be able to. The truth is that it can be answered, just not with a hard, up front number. The answer depends in part on which process you choose and how much you and your spouse are willing to work together. Let’s do a little compare and contrast.
First: The Traditional Litigation Route
This is the route people know from tv shows. You file a petition and your lawyer prepares what is called written discovery (a set of written questions for your spouse to answer, a long list of documents to produce, and maybe what are called requests for admissions). Your spouse’s lawyer will prepare and send similar questions for you to answer with documents to gather. A lot of the documents you both gather will be identical. The lawyers may decide depositions are necessary, where you give testimony with a court reporter present as if you were in a courtroom testifying. And then there are hearings. Many traditionally litigated family law cases have what are called temporary orders hearings where the judge decides what your temporary schedule will be with the children, who gets to stay in the house, what temporary child support payments will be, and maybe whether temporary spousal support payments will be made. If you or your spouse aren’t answering all of the written discovery questions, there may be another hearing in front of the judge to decide how that should be handled. There could be any number of hearings in advance of a trial if you can’t settle your case. And of course, many couples try mediation somewhere in that timeline in the hopes of settling. Now go back through his paragraph (it’s a long one) and start adding up all of the hours both your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will spend preparing for all of these things and responding to all of the actions of the other attorney. That’s why no one can tell you how much it costs, but it is easy to see how it can become so expensive – many thousands of dollars eaten away from your financial estate.
Second: The Collaborative Divorce route
This is a process where your attorneys are collaborating with both you and your spouse to minimize costs, keep your divorce private and out of the courtroom, and reach a settlement of your divorce that works for both of you and your children. You skip the formal written discovery and gather all of the documents that you both need. There are no depositions. There are no hearings. There is no trial. Often, you and your lawyers will bring in a jointly hired financial expert to help you gather all of your financial information and help you evaluate different settlement options – that’s one financial expert instead of two attorneys. And you may even bring in a jointly hired parenting counselor who will help you develop a schedule that works best for YOUR family. Again, that’s one professional working on the issue with you instead of two attorneys. Then once you have your agreements in place, the attorneys write it up into a final divorce order that the judge signs.
So, like any other lawyer, I cannot tell you exactly how much it will cost you to get a divorce. But I can tell you how to minimize your cost. A Collaborative Divorce gives you and your spouse control over the process, control over your calendar, and control over the outcome. And that control saves you money.