Why Divorces Can Be Expensive (And How You Can Reduce the Costs)

Why Divorces Can Be Expensive (And How You Can Reduce the Costs)

It’s rough enough understanding that your marriage has failed. You know you need to start over. You want to protect your children and yourself – financially and emotionally. It’s especially critical to be able to move a divorce quickly if a spouse is being abusive. The time to discuss, prepare, file court papers, negotiate, and try family law cases can be extensive – which means they can sometimes cost a lot of money.

In a recent article on the high cost of divorce in Atlantic Magazine, the author of the article noted that there’s no right to a pro bono family lawyer. Spouses need to pay for their own divorce lawyer. For spouses who have been married a long time, who have careers, and have significant assets, paying for a divorce is manageable. For low-income spouses and spouses who spent their life supporting their husband’s (or wife’s) career, the cost of divorce may give the spouse seeking a divorce a lot of pause.

Some family law advocates are concerned that too many (about 15 percent of separated spouses) stay married because they can’t afford to get divorced. One study (over a five-year period) that examined the efforts of low-income people in Philadelphia, PA to get a divorce “randomly assigned 74 divorce-seekers, out of 311, into a pool of people they would attempt to match with attorneys.” The study found the people who were matched with lawyers had more success in obtaining a divorce (46%) compared to the ability of those without lawyers (9%) to obtain a divorce. Some of the people who didn’t obtain a divorce did reconcile with their spouses.

Are there benefits to divorces being expensive?

Some advocates think that the high cost of divorce is actually a good thing. According to Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, “Marriage is an important factor in fostering better social, emotional, and economic outcomes for our kids, adults, and communities.” He’s even concerned that we should make no-fault divorces harder. “He supports a universal three-month waiting period for a divorce, and an advantage in the division of assets and child custody to the spouse who wants to preserve the marriage.”

Of course, Mr. Wilcox’s opinions about the cost of divorce are based more in his beliefs about the institution of marriage, and one wonders if such beliefs remain the same in the face of pernicious abuse, fraud, adultery, or other common causes for separation.

How much does an uncontested divorce cost in Tennessee?

In uncontested divorces, the spouses agree to the divorce and to the division of their assets, including retirement accounts, savings accounts, bank accounts, and properties. They also agree to any child custody and child support issues. These are, of course, long-term expenses. There are also additional expenses for:

  • Filing the divorce with the local county courthouse, which can run between $200 and $300
  • The spouse seeking the divorce, even if they don’t pay for a lawyer, needs to take the time to understand what documents need to be filed, where the papers need to be filed, and how to file the papers. This requires costly trips to the courthouse, a law library, or a computer and an Internet access fee.
  • In Tennessee, spouses need to prove they’ve lived apart for two years. Living apart is much more expensive than living together. A spouse needs to understand how to show they’ve been living apart for the past two years.

How much does a contested divorce costs in Tennessee?

If the issues of property division (including responsibility for debts), child custody, and child support need to be resolved through litigation, then the cost of a divorce can increase by a lot. Spouses who don’t have a lawyer generally do much worse financially and emotionally than spouses who have a family law attorney.

Contested divorces involve:

  • Filing court papers and responding to the court filings of your spouse
  • The time and expense to identify all the marital assets/debts of each spouse
  • Costs for business valuation by outside experts, such as financial planners or CPAs
  • The time and cost to obtain documentation from your spouse regarding his/her retirement benefits, assets, debts, business interests, income, and other financial matters
  • The time and expense to conduct discovery when authorized
  • The living expenses for you and your children while you wait for all the divorce issues to be resolved

How can I reduce the cost of my divorce in Franklin?

There is some good news. There are alternatives to litigation that are commonly used to help reduce costs. With mediation, a neutral third party helps to negotiate a settlement. With a collaborative divorce, experienced domestic relations professionals work with your lawyer to try to forge a settlement of the open divorce issues. Mediation and collaborative divorce:

  • Are less costly because less court time is involved
  • Are much more friendly because the focus is on finding solutions
  • Keep your children out of the dispute
  • Generally, result in stronger settlements – which means fewer filings to change any child custody or child support issues

At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, our Franklin family lawyer has been helping spouses navigate the difficulties of divorce for 30 years. At the first conference, we discuss with you the likely cost of the divorce and work with you to arrange a manageable payment schedule. We seek to reduce costs through negotiation, mediation, and collaborative divorces. We seek temporary alimony to help you live and pay for the divorce while the divorce is pending. To discuss all your divorce concerns, call our office at 615-977-9370 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent spouses in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood Tennessee.