I was recently at a lunch meeting with other divorce professionals and the topic of costs came up. We all face the "what do you charge and how much will it cost" question that all potential clients ask. People facing divorce all have some preconceived ideas based on a friend's experience, hearsay, media reports etc. Most people believe their own situation is not a complicated one and should fit in the "average cost range". As experienced professionals, we know that few divorcing clients fit the "average model," and the "cheapest price" may not be that cheap in the long run. You only have one chance at a settlement which will affect you for the rest of your life. You want to be sure to get it right.
So how do divorce costs pile up?
The choice you make in how you will arrive at a settlement agreement directly affects the cost.
A do-it-yourself scenario where you work everything out between yourselves may be very effective and least costly but may best work in situations where there are no children, few assets and fewer complications.
Mediation allows couples to come to agreement mainly on their own with a mediator who facilitates with the couple in reaching an agreement. Couples share the cost of the mediator. Each spouse in turn may have their own lawyer providing independent legal advice as required.
In Collaborative Practice, clients each retain their own lawyer in addition to other professionals such as family specialists and financial specialists as needed, who all work together to reach an enduring settlement. A collaborative divorce is a holistic approach where each professional charges at his or her own rate and divorcing couples have control over how much involvement from each professional there may be depending on their own unique needs.
Traditional litigation can be costly if negotiations fail and end up in court. Trial costs can be enormous.
Legal fees represent only part of the costs. Other factors can impact the total cost of your divorce, such as:
• The nature and complexity of the couples' situation itself.
• Your lack of financial knowledge or familiarity with your own finances
• The need for involving other professionals to assist with valuations of such things as home, other properties, pensions, businesses, stock options and tracing assets.
• Your emotional state, which may affect the duration and cost the time involved in reaching a settlement.
• Your decision to fire lawyers or lawyer's decision to fire you.
A divorce financial planner may help by make strategic recommendations in a cost-efficient manner, no matter what method you choose to deal with your divorce. Divorce financial planners have expertise that can help budget for this process and source funds to pay for the divorce, in addition to educating clients and professionals about complex financial issues, analyzing choices less expensively than lawyers and producing precise analysis for desired outcomes. They may also provide financial counseling to clients post divorce.