All relationships experience distance or highly passionate fights.
Most fights come to a reasonable resolution, but you can’t come back from certain transgressions or fundamental lifestyle disagreements.
When the dust settles, and you and your former partner realize that it may benefit both parties to dissolve your union, it can hit you like a punch in the gut.
The last thing you want to think about is the finances.
However, you need to make the topic a priority since the process will cost you much more than you probably expected.
Why does a breakup cost so much?
We will cover the top 10 reasons divorce is so expensive.
1. Attorney Fees
The law sees things in very specific terms.
A lawyer can help you frame your case in a way that gives you the best legal advantage.
Naturally, legal counsel makes up the largest expense associated with a divorce.
According to NOLO, the national average cost of divorce comes to $12,900, and on average, $11,300 of that goes to the attorney.
One of the largest factors in the total cost, outside of prolonged disagreements about alimony and child custody with your ex, is how much your particular attorney charges.
The longer the divorce takes and the more you need your attorney, the higher the final bill will be.
The average divorce takes 12 to 18 months.
See how many people paid per hour for their divorce attorney based on a recent survey:
- $100/hr.: 11%
- $200/hr.: 34%
- $300/hr.: 35%
- $400/hr.: 20%
Famed celebrity divorce attorney Laura Wasser, also known as the “Disso Queen” charges $850 an hour and requires a $250,000 retainer.
Some of her clients include Kim Kardashian (Kris Humphries and Kanye West), Johnny Depp (Amber Heard), and Angelina Jolie (Billy Bob Thornton and Brad Pitt), but the list goes on and on.
While she charges quite a bit more than average, most clients hire her again for their next divorce, so she must be worth it.
Do I Need A Divorce Lawyer?
You are not legally required to have a divorce lawyer, especially if you are on good terms with your ex and have uncomplicated assets.
However, divorce paperwork can get complicated.
You don’t want to make an expensive mistake.
Also, divorce tends to bring out the worst in people.
Your ex may do things you didn’t expect.
If your ex has a lawyer, that’s a sign that you will need to get a lawyer, too.
Even if you don’t think they hired an attorney yet, it’s wise to consult with a lawyer just to understand the risks in your particular case.
When picking a lawyer, look for the following qualities:
- Experience in local divorce law
- Quality education
- Ability to provide personalized attention
2. Lack Of Cooperation
As many of us know, a divorce can get extremely nasty.
Anger, fear, and other emotions can make it nearly impossible for a stubborn couple to agree since both parties may try to hurt the other in any way they can.
When a former couple going through a divorce can’t come to an agreement, the law gets involved.
The back-and-forth costs more money, especially if the situation gets so acrimonious that it must go to trial.
See the following average cost of a divorce based on the level of contention:
- No major contention: $4,100
- No alimony-related disputes: $7,800
- No child-related disputes: $10,100
- Disputes settled out of court (mediation): $10,600
- With child-related disputes: $15,500
- With alimony-related disputes: $15,900
- Trial for one dispute: $20,379
- Trial for two or more disputes: $23,300
To illustrate just how ridiculous divorce cases can get, one lawyer describes a senselessly expensive fight:
“It took the couple two hours to decide who would get the groceries left in the fridge. They had an estimated value of about $40. Two hours of my time, the opposing counsel’s time, and the mediator’s time added up to about $1,000.”
Frankly, you’ll save more money giving your ex the groceries.
How To Come To An Agreement In Your Divorce
Some people don’t make it easy to come to a compromise, especially when the stakes are high.
In most cases, both parties are to blame.
When you notice things getting heated, be the bigger person and take steps to resolve the issue peacefully (and less expensively).
Start by speaking to your ex without lawyers.
Appeal to their logical side and explain that coming to an agreement can save both of you a lot of money.
You can initiate the informal negotiations by making a significant contribution of your own, showing that you are willing to compromise.
If things don’t work out as you hoped, remain calm.
If you become unhinged, your ex may be able to use the things you do or say in anger against you.
Always keep things civil and take the high road, no matter what your ex does.
The next step would be to go to mediation where a professional mediator will facilitate communication between you and your ex with the goal of coming to an agreement.
You will need to pay a significant cost for the mediator’s help, of course.
If the mediator fails to make you and your ex see eye to eye, the final stage involves going to court.
3. State Filing Fees And Laws
State Divorce Fees
Every state charges a fee to file for divorce.
Some states charge significantly more than others.
North Dakota charges $75 for “absolute divorce”.
California, on the other hand, charges $435, and there may be multiple additional charges based on how complicated the divorce is.
You need to pay these fees whether or not you have a lawyer.
State Divorce Laws
For couples who live in multiple states, the state that you file in can make a big difference in your divorce case.
Certain states also make it easier to get a divorce than some other states.
States with the most lenient divorce laws:
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
States with the most stringent divorce laws:
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Different states also have different laws about alimony and child custody/child support.
Learn more about divorce laws state by state.
4. Maintaining Relationships With Children
Children are a blessing, and child/parent relationships are priceless.
Divorce not only tears a couple apart but also limits the amount of time each parent can spend with their children.
Parents will fight hard and pay a lot of money to get the best results when it comes to child custody.
The judge will make a decision based on what’s best for the children.
In most cases, this means having both parents involved.
However, child custody gets complicated when parents live in different locations, or one parent may need to prove themselves as a suitable parent due to previous behavior.
You may be responsible for paying travel expenses.
You may also need to pay for court-ordered rehab, visitation meetings, or other third-party social services.
Both parents need to care for their children as well as they can and have proper living accommodations for the children.
Caring for the children and maintaining relationships becomes even more difficult and costly when you consider that each parent must provide everything with one income.
5. Living On A Single Income
Most households rely on two incomes to survive.
After a divorce, you will only have one income to support yourself and your dependents.
You will need to budget your finances differently, and it can lead to a change in lifestyle.
You may not be able to go out to eat as much or take a second vacation every year.
It doesn’t help that you will have legal expenses and new monthly expenses at this time.
Tips For Living On A Single Income
1. Focus On Work
Make more money by committing yourself to your work.
Be the best employee you can be at your current job.
You can also spruce up your resume and apply for new positions available inside and outside of your company.
While you wait for the right opportunity, subsidize your income by taking on side gigs and working extra hours whenever you can.
2. Go Green
Going green lowers your carbon footprint, and it saves you money.
Go green by switching to energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
You can also switch to an electric hybrid car or use public transportation.
3. Live Within Your Means
You need to live according to your current budget, with the understanding that you will have a lot of upcoming expenses thanks to the divorce.
If you can’t afford your monthly bills with your current income, you may benefit from downsizing.
4. Plan For Emergencies
You no longer have the financial support of a spouse in hard times.
You need to plan for hard times in advance by setting up multiple savings accounts.
6. Monthly Payments
The judge may expect you to make monthly payments to your ex in the form of child support payments and alimony payments if they request it and prove their case.
Child support refers to payments one parent will make to another, especially if they don’t have primary care of the children.
The payment is designed to cover the cost of caring for the child.
Child support payments usually continue until the child turns 18.
However, you may need to continue making child support payments if the child goes to college.
Payments will continue until the child graduates or drops out of school.
The average monthly child support payment in the United States comes to $430.
It’s extremely important to make child support payments or you can face serious consequences.
If you lost your job or ran into some other type of hardship, you are responsible for making payment unless you approach the court to make a temporary adjustment (which will cost money).
If you fail to make your child support payments, you cannot wipe away the debt with bankruptcy.
You may notice a gender discrepancy when it comes to child support.
When a mother becomes the custodial parent, they receive child support 79% of the time. Single fathers only receive child support 30% of the time.
Alimony refers to payments one spouse makes to another to maintain the lifestyle they experienced with their spouse.
There are multiple types of alimony:
- Temporary alimony: alimony for a predetermined amount of time
- Reviewable alimony: alimony that will be reviewed at a later date based on changing personal and professional situations
- Permanent alimony: alimony that continues into retirement
Many states no longer grant alimony payments.
Other states allow alimony but don’t authorize permanent alimony.
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
Once you separate from your ex, you may want to start dating again.
To get back on the dating scene, you may give yourself a bit of a makeover.
To upgrade your look, you may want to buy new clothes or go to the salon/barber.
Once you are ready, you may need to pay for a dating service or a matchmaker.
The real expenses with dating happen when you actually find a potential match.
It costs money to go out on dates for both women and men.
Tips For Dating After Divorce
You should not feel guilty about meeting new people.
However, you probably don’t feel comfortable in the dating scene, especially if you were married for a long time.
1. Give Yourself Time
Allow yourself time to heal from your divorce emotionally to ensure that you start your dating experience with a clear mindset.
2. Move Slowly
When you do start dating, take things slowly.
You don’t want to overwhelm your date or your children by taking things too quickly.
3. Work On Yourself First
To make yourself desirable, focus on your own personal and professional self-improvement above dating.
You will continue to thrive, making yourself even more attractive to potential dates.
4. Avoid Repeat Mistakes
Some self-destructive habits become patterns.
If you tend to fall for dominating or neglectful partners, get professional help to break the pattern.
When you identify the red flags in the beginning, you can save yourself from a heartbreaking (and expensive) second mistake.
5. Respect Yourself
You don’t need to be desperate.
Ensure that you demonstrate confidence and self-respect so that people don’t think they can take advantage of your emotions in a vulnerable state.
Set standards and hold your dates up to those standards.
6. Manage Expectations
While it’s great to have standards, you also need to understand that everyone has baggage.
The dating pool is probably also a lot smaller than it was the last time you dated.
Open your mind to blended families and suitors who don’t make as much money as you may expect (within reason).
8. Future Disagreements
After you finalize the divorce, you may think that you’re done for good.
However, you should probably keep your attorney’s contact information for when you and your ex have disputes later, especially if you have children.
If you or your ex get a job opportunity in a faraway location, you may need to go back to court to reconfigure child custody and child support.
You can also end up back in court if you and your ex need to make changes in your alimony payments.
9. Division Of Assets
During the divorce proceedings, you and your spouse will need to divide your combined assets.
You may not realize exactly how many things you share with your spouse (legally) until you actually need to directly address it.
Normally, everything earned during the marriage belongs to each person equally, but the laws vary from state to state.
Money earned before the marriage or received as an inheritance usually does not apply.
Most families only have one home.
You and your spouse need to determine how to make it so that things remain fair.
You may agree to sell the house and divide the profits.
Hopefully, it’s a seller’s market when you sell.
Alternatively, you may decide to allow one person to stay in the house and have them buy the other person out.
A legal document known as a prenuptial agreement clarifies the division of assets at the beginning of the marriage.
While it’s not romantic to discuss while sampling hors d’oeuvres and wedding cakes, many people don’t realize the importance of a prenup until after they get burned.
According to the text of the great bard Kanye West in his classic piece Gold Digger:
If you ain’t no punk
Holla, “We want prenup! We want prenup!” (Yeah!)
It’s somethin’ that you need to have
‘Cause when she leave yo’ ass, she gon’ leave with half
He is in the middle of a divorce, though…
10. Emotional Cost
On a more serious note, the most devastating loss throughout your divorce will be the emotional toll it takes on you and the rest of your family.
After your divorce, you may feel lonely and depressed.
Your whole life as you knew it is completely different now.
While you may enjoy the freedom temporarily, your situation will inevitably hit you.
It will hurt even more when you see how the divorce affects your children.
You may even have moments of doubt when you see the pain in their eyes.
To get your emotions back on track, you may decide to go to therapy.
On average, therapy sessions cost anywhere from $20 to $250 for each appointment.
Your insurance company should cover a majority of your therapy costs.
You may need to pay for prescription medication.
The cost varies greatly depending on the type of medication and your individual health insurance coverage.
Medication isn’t the answer for everyone.
If you prefer to manage your mental health holistically, you have options.
Some methods to help aid depression and anxiety naturally include:
- Group therapy
- Reciting positive affirmations
- Practicing breathing techniques
When you take care of your mental health, you will notice positive changes in your relationships and your life.
You also can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself.
Some people wonder if the high cost of divorce is worth it.
The answer depends on you and your situation.
Many people don’t fight for relationships.
If you can keep your family together, you should work toward it.
However, not every relationship is healthy.
If you are in a situation involving domestic abuse, addiction, or infidelity, you should seriously consider separating yourself from your partner to avoid prolonging a toxic situation.
If you decide divorce is the best solution, rest assured that you can get through it.
When you find yourself at a low point, do what you can to build yourself up again for the sake of your future and your children.
The cost should be the least of your concerns.
Focus on making yourself happy again while doing the right thing for everyone involved.