What Are My Options If I Divorce?
The cost of any divorce varies, because divorce costs are related to a number of factors. Some things that affect the cost of divorce are:
- The number of years of marriage.
- The amount of property and debt accumulated up to now.
- The number and age of any children of the marriage.
- The level of contention between the couple.
There are several ways to approach getting a divorce and each has its own associated costs.
Doing it yourself
While there may be free or low cost forms available through your local family court, most people still require at least some direction regarding the meaning of the legal terms and the applicable statutes that may apply to their specific circumstances. Sometimes people find this way of divorcing fairly inexpensive. But it can also be very expensive, if done incorrectly. Thus, even when using forms that are locally available, it can be very helpful to consult with local counsel too to ensure you have addressed all the relevant items in your case.
Many U.S. cities have trained mediators for family law cases, whether only for the issues of child custody, or for the entire group of relevant facts. Fees for these services vary, depending upon backgrounds, training, and experience, and are often calculated on a meeting by meeting basis with the intent to help parties reach agreement in a reasonable amount of time. This can be a place to start if you can locate someone who is familiar with your local court and rules, and can provide some basic guidelines that you might work with to reach agreements. It might still be appropriate to consult with attorneys, either before or after mediation, to ensure your specific facts are addressed in any agreements you reach.
In today’s legal market, attorneys who practice family law are varied in their approaches and fee structures. Based upon a couple’s specific case, attorneys may request a lump sum up front (often called a retainer), and then clients may be required to pay additional fees, depending upon the level of conflict and time it takes to resolve the case. Other attorneys provide what may be called unbundled services for hourly fees, during which they may consult with their clients about issues, help with certain forms, review documents, etc. Either way, the cost usually depends upon the same set of factors listed above, and conflict itself is the most expensive part of divorce.