Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, despite good intentions from both spouses, and the best way for the individuals to move on is separate, through a divorce. A divorce is the termination of a marriage, ending the parties’ legal union. One of our clients’ initial considerations and questions asked to us is: How much will my divorce cost?
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to that question. No two divorce proceedings are alike, each has different issues that must be resolved, that will impact the price of the process. Questions of child custody, support, alimony, and equitable distribution can all be factored into the price of a divorce action. Though these questions need not necessarily be decided before finalizing the divorce, claims to alimony or equitable distribution must be made or the parties are barred from raising these claims again. Two other important questions are whether the parties can settle in mediation, or whether they will need to go to court.
Essentially, the process is a form of the prisoner’s dilemma, work together, and everyone pays less, but work against each other, and both parties pay more.
For example, take the case of Al and Barbara, who want a divorce. Al and Barbara have no ill-feelings toward each other, but their marriage has come to an end, without children. Al and Barbara work together to come up with an agreement on how their mutual assets should be split and how to go forward. Al and Barbara’s divorce will cost less than other divorces below. In this case, the attorneys for the parties can draw up a separation agreement or consent order and draft and file the paperwork for the divorce. Because Al and Barbara have worked together, they each pay less.
Alternatively, Carl and Doreen also want a divorce, but they have children. While Carl and Doreen can determine how to split their mutual assets, they cannot come to an agreement on child custody. Before the parties go to court, in North Carolina, parties are mandated to participate in mediation. Prior to mediation, Carl and Doreen’s attorneys will likely have to go through the processes of discovery, and potential depositions, wherein the opposing attorney asks the party questions under oath before the court. Mediation is a process wherein the parties meet and discuss their problems through a mediator, who attempts to find a solution for the parties. Mediation costs time and money for the attorneys, the mediator, and the parties. In addition to paying the attorneys for their time, Carl and Doreen will have to split the costs of the mediator. Assuming the parties can settle their differences in mediation, Carl and Doreen can avoid paying attorneys’ trial fees.
Finally, Eddie and Frannie want a divorce, have children and have an acrimonious history. Neither can agree with the other on anything, and both want to “have their day in court”. Despite that fact, Eddie and Frannie will be mandated to go to mediation, as described above. When that process inevitably breaks down, the parties will have to go to trial. Eddie and Frannie’s attorneys will definitely have to go through the process of discovery regarding the other party, including depositions and preparations for trial, which will run up their attorneys’ fees. Additionally, Eddie and Frannie will have to pay attorneys for their time in the trial, which is usually higher than their regular rate.
Al and Barbara’s costs will likely be the least because they have chosen to work together, and to minimize the costs. Carl and Doreen’s costs will likely fall in the middle of the pack, as they can agree on some issues, but not on others, requiring mediation to work their problems out. Finally, Eddie and Frannie’s attorneys’ fees will likely be the highest of the three, because they have decided the most expensive, and time-consuming path.
How much does a divorce cost? The best answer to this question is ‘it depends.’ Essentially, your case will differ from the next one in many aspects. A divorcing couple who have reached an agreement on major issues will likely spend less on their divorce than a contesting couple.
To protect your interests and finances in a divorce, it is advisable to consult with an attorney from the word go. Schedule an initial consultation to learn what you can expect and how to prepare yourself.
If you need help with a divorce, please contact Perry, Bundy, Plyler & Long, LLP, to discuss your case with a Monroe Divorce Attorney.