How Much Does a Divorce Cost?
This question belongs in the same category as these other questions.
How much money do I need for retirement?
Children are expensive, right?
What’s the weight of a 45- year-old woman weigh?
Every one’s situation is different. The questions above deal with very personal subject matters. Therefore, it is impossible to answer without further information.
For example, how much you need for retirement depends how old you are when you retire, where you want to live, and how much you spend. The cost of children depends where you raise them, how you raise them and how many children you have. How much someone weighs depends on their health, family history, genetics, lifestyle and where they live.
Same with Divorce. A lot of people complain that the information I give is too general. That is the point. I am not allowed to provide specific legal advice, because everyone’s situation is different and highly individual. Family Law is fact-specific.
In general, how much you spend in divorce depends on how much you fight.
There is a common misconception that all celebrity divorces are expensive. This is not true at all. I guess Bruce and Kris Jenner spent nearly NOTHING on their divorce. I also guess Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos didn’t spend very much (compared to their relative wealth).
If you and your ex can reach an agreement on ALL issues, all it takes is a document preparer (preferably an attorney) to draft up documents and file. You will only pay the cost of filing fees ($435 per person – very expensive!) and messenger fees.
The more you fight; the more you pay. In divorce, there are certain things to fight for. Educate yourself on the laws of your state. If you are being unreasonable, all your fighting is for naught, because you will lose in Court.
Know what to fight for.
Divorce Lawyers Charge You Per Hour
Nothing is free in life. You either pay for products or services. When you go to Vons, you are paying for their product: groceries. When you hire an attorney, you are paying for their TIME. Because time is their product.
Lawyers are expensive because time is limited. Every minute a lawyer spends on you deducts from their stash of time.
A typical lawyer’s initial retainer in Los Angeles ranges from $7,000 to $25,000. This is the deposit (downpayment) you pay them to take your case. It is not a flat fee and only pays for the amount of hours relative to their billing rate. For example, if your attorney’s hourly rate is $500, a $10,000 retainer will only pay for 20 hours of their time.
Lawyers charge you for every minute of their time. Work with a therapist. Educate yourself on how to most efficiently use your lawyer.
The More You Know, the Less You Will Pay
The most time-consuming (and therefore expensive) thing in divorce is discovery. Discovery is the formal process of exchanging information for the purposes of settlement, or trial.
Lawyers operate on calculated risk. Good lawyers don’t go to trial with no evidence.
For example, in a divorce case where there are many assets and debts, you will need to exchange financial statements on accounts and prepare valuations of those assets.
If one of you does not have information on the accounts, your attorney will need to propound discovery on your behalf to discover all the assets before they can advise you on a fair settlement.
Please note that it is not enough that ONE of you has that information.
If only one of you has information about your financials, the divorce will likely be expensive. Unless BOTH of you have equal information, OR the outspouse completely trusts the inspouse, the imbalance of knowledge will trigger the necessity of discovery.
Divorce Lawyers Have Duties
Even if the outspouse does NOT wish to have complete information, their divorce attorney has a DUTY to obtain all information in order to properly recommend a settlement.
In divorce, there are many “what ifs”? The unknown is expensive to discovery.
The more information you have, the less it will cost. For example, many clients come in complaining of “hidden accounts”.
Hidden accounts in cash stashed in another country is virtually impossible to find. You can pay a private investigator a lot of money, but the search may be unfruitful. In general, you will pay money for the search for information.
Even if your search unveils nothing of use, you will still pay for the lawyer, forensic, investigator’s time.
Be an In-Spouse
To avoid paying lawyers and forensics for information, BE AN IN-SPOUSE.
Before you marry or live with someone, discuss all the finances. Unlike breastfeeding, child-bearing and taking out the trash, finances are NOT gender-biased. (Just kidding about the trash!)
BOTH parties should have knowledge of the finances. If you are marrying someone who is much wealthier and has financial power, it is even more essential to have information. Do not assume that you will be “taken care of” if the marriage ever ends.
The more information you have on your finances, the less you will need to pay your lawyers if the divorce ends.
Lawyers Advise Law; Understand Boundaries
Family law attorneys have specific training on the rights and obligations of marriage and divorce. Use them for that purpose.
In family law, because emotions run high, the clients tend to spend a lot of time telling their attorneys about their feelings and hatred of their spouse. Do not do this.
Family law attorneys are not mental health professionals. They do not know how to prescribe medication or dispense proper advice on DSM-IV diagnoses. Family law attorneys should not diagnose “bi-polar” or “narcissistic personality” disorders.
Make every hour of your retainer count. Do not drain your retainer with your attorney on anything that is not law related.