Divorce and Financial Disaster

When (if Ever) is “Cost-Effective Divorce” Possible?

Imagine this scenario: after years of marriage, kids and a mortgage, a couple decides to end their marriage. They have joint property and multiple joint investments. There’s been no infidelity, though the fighting has ratcheted up in recent years and the relationship is only amicable at times.

Should they “lawyer up”? Or is there another way?

Let’s look at the price. For a standard divorce—each side has a lawyer, the lawyers lead their clients through negotiation, there are contracts, then back-and-forth about property, debt, spousal payments, custody. The list can go on depending on the types of property the couple owns together, whether they own a business or have ongoing investments together. Divorce attorney fees are generally in the $250 per hour range, and the average divorce in the US costs about $20,000. That’s because every phonecall, every email is billed. And some of those calls and emails are simply informational—trying to understand and assess just what the couple wants when you cut through the emotional fog can rack up the billable hours.

Collaborative divorce or just “collaborative” is a different process. It involves a variety of experts—child psychologists, financial experts—to help sort out and brainstorm creative solutions to the end of the marriage. The idea is not to simply draw the curtains, but to find a new, peaceful, satisfying next act. It’s opening yourself up to neither your way, nor your ex’s way, but an alternate way that you can both be content with.

But of course, all that takes time. And here’s where the question of cost is a tricky one.

This week I sat down with Anne-Louise DePalo and discussed collaborative divorce and, specifically, the costs involved. DePalo is an attorney in Staten Island who’s been practicing in the area of divorce and family law for over 30 years, and she’s the author of the book, Divorce Now What?  How to Survive, Thrive and Become Fully Alive Through the Divorce Process. She wrote the book to show people that they have options in divorce. It isn’t just litigation and conflict.

The Cost of Collaborative vs. Traditional Divorce

DePalo points out that with collaborative divorce, while you may be paying for experts, you are splitting the cost. And those experts can end up helping you come to a more amicable—and reasonable—financial settlement. In divorce court, with both sides digging in their heels, you may find yourself dragged into a zero-sum game. The financial—as well the psychological—risks are higher.

Back to the Scenario

Back in our hypothetical situation, imagine that both parties entered into the collaborative process. Imagine the fighting cools off, since no one’s on the defensive. Imagine creative solutions to custody—moving the parents instead of the kids in and out of the house, or some other unique share approach. Imagine taking a hard look at investments and deciding which one side can cede to the other.

This calmer, more amicable approach to dissolving a marriage doesn’t have to be hypothetical. With the right approach, a peaceful resolution can happen.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.