According to studies published by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”), the average cost of a collaborative divorce is around $24,000.00. The IACP also reported that simple collaborative cases cost around $12,000.00, while more complex collaborative cases average approximately $32,000. Finally, the IACP found that using two attorneys for a collaborative divorce generally costs less than employing a full collaborative team of two attorneys, a financial professional and a mental health professional.
Although we know the average cost of a typical collaborative divorce, we don’t know the relative costs of collaborative and litigation divorces and we don’t know if they take equally long to resolve. To answer this question, I compared the average cost, duration, and difficulty of collaborative divorces with the average cost, duration, and difficulty of litigated divorces to discover any significant differences. The Texas attorneys involved in the study handle both collaborative and litigated divorces, so I compared the cost of collaborative and litigated divorces using the same attorneys in both groups.
The average litigated divorce in the sample cost $89,250 while the average collaborative divorce cost only $14,269. These cost differences are statistically significant, even though the number of cases was small. Specifically, the likelihood that collaborative and litigated divorces cost the same on average is less that two in one hundred. This means if the study were replicated one hundred times, only two samples would occur where the average cost of a collaborative divorce is equal to the average cost of a litigated divorce; in the other ninety-eight samples the average cost of a collaborative divorce would be less than the average cost of a litigated divorce.
I also found that affluent clients, with average annual incomes around $100,000, are more likely to select the collaborative process for their divorce. The likelihood that affluent divorce clients chose the collaborative process by chance is less than two in one thousand. This means it would require one thousand replications of our study to find two samples in which affluent clients selected litigation more often than they chose the collaborative process.
One surprising finding I don’t fully understand is why male clients who choose a litigated divorce showed significantly more signs of mental illness and were more likely to have unrealistic expectations compared with male clients who selected the collaborative process. This may be due to self-selection–perhaps male clients with mental illnesses or unrealistic expectations choose litigation rather than the collaborative process. Another possible explanation is that the stresses of litigation trigger latent mental illness among male clients and generate unrealistic expectations because they have suffered so much during the litigated divorce.
The important conclusions from this study are that the average collaborative divorce is significantly less expensive compared with the average litigated divorce and there were no significant differences in the duration or rated difficulty of collaborative divorces compared with litigation divorces. To learn more about the benefits of a collaborative divorce, read my previous blog on the topic.