Planning for a divorce can be difficult. If you recently filed for a divorce, then you've probably heard horror stories about the process costing divorcees thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars when all is said and done.
If you want to reduce the impact of your divorce on your finances, planning is key. Today, we're covering common expenses associated with divorce so that you can plan ahead. We'll also be giving you some budgeting tips to make unavoidable expenses less of a burden.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we help our clients navigate the divorce process with confidence. To seek help from experienced legal professionals, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.
How Much Does the Average US Divorce Cost?
Let's start with some averages so you can get an idea of what you may have to pay for your divorce.
The average US divorce, from start to finish, can end up costing thousands of dollarscan cost thousands of dollars and take anywhere from 4-11 months to complete on average. In Texas, most courts charge around $300 to file for divorce (this figure can vary by county). Identifying average attorney fees is harder—depending on where you look, you'll find attorneys who charge anywhere from $150 to $650 per hour. Attorney’s hourly rates typically vary based on legal experience and specializations in particular areas of the law.
Obviously, costs for divorce vary on a case-by-case basis. In a high-asset divorce where both parties have assets and liabilities valued at hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, for example, the overall cost of the divorce will probably be much higher than for a divorce with lower stakes. A lawyer can help you understand how much your divorce may cost depending on your current finances and how you want to approach the divorce.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: A Deciding Factor
One of the most significant factors that plays into how much a divorce costs is whether it's a contested or uncontested divorce.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on terms for the divorce. In a contested divorce, the parties disagree on how to handle one or more elements of the divorce (property division, spousal or child support, child custody, etc.). Even if you and your partner mostly agree on how to proceed with the divorce, as long as there's one point of contention or something you disagree on, your divorce is still considered a contested divorce.
Contested divorces often cost several times more than uncontested divorces.
In an uncontested divorce, the parties won't need to engage in a courtroom battle since they agree on terms for the divorce at the outset. Lawyers also play a fundamentally different role in an uncontested divorce.
Instead of advocating for their clients in the courtroom as they would in a contested divorce, lawyers in an uncontested divorce tend to focus on keeping things amicable and making sure each party receives an equitable outcome in the divorce. For this reason, many lawyers offer different pricing models for uncontested and contested divorces.
It's important to note that a contested divorce can transition into an uncontested divorce over time. This typically happens when the parties engage in a negotiation process, like mediation or collaboration, and agree on how to handle the divorce at that time.
If you disagree with your partner on how to handle the divorce and intend to battle it out in court, you should expect to pay significantly more for your divorce than if you file for an uncontested divorce.
Plan on Paying for the Experts
One short-term cost you may want to consider for your divorce is hiring various experts (in addition to your lawyer) to help you with the process.
For example, during your divorce, you'll need to determine how to split marital property with your soon-to-be-ex. This includes both assets and liabilities.
Figuring out an equitable split that also serves your best interests can be challenging but bringing in a financial professional like a certified public accountant (CPA) who specializes in asset valuation can make the process much more streamlined.
Similarly, you may want to consider bringing in professionals like a family counselor if you have children and need to determine a child custody arrangement, or a forensic accountant if you believe your partner isn't disclosing their assets and liabilities honestly.
You should view hiring these professionals as a long-term investment. While they may cost more money up-front, they can help you secure more comprehensive, equitable arrangements and pursue your best interests throughout the divorce, which can pay dividends and result in a much happier life later down the line.
Most lawyers are happy to recommend professionals who can help with the divorce process. Consider asking your lawyer what they would recommend and how much hiring additional help might cost.
It's the Little Things: Splitting Legal Contracts
One often-overlooked divorce expense is splitting all the contracts you probably have with your spouse.
Most married couples take advantage of various marriage-based incentives for contracts, like price-breaks on joint insurance policies or phone plans, co-signing loans for vehicles, etc.
When you split from your partner, you'll also need to remove yourself from any joint contracts you share. This usually carries a fee—some of which can be surprisingly costly. For example, splitting up your phone plan can cost hundreds, and figuring out how to get out of a co-signed loan can be difficult.
Your lawyer can help you identify what legal contracts you may need to rearrange as you proceed with the divorce. An accountant may also be capable of helping you budget for the resulting expenses.
Last but not Least, Think Taxes
For many married individuals, their tax situation changes drastically post-divorce. This is particularly true for high-asset couples in which one party is the primary breadwinner.
How you choose to handle various marital assets, like the marital home, will significantly impact your taxes in the following tax season. Depending on the income disparity between you and your soon-to-be-ex, you could also find yourself in an entirely different tax bracket post-divorce.
You should consult your lawyer and a financial professional like an accountant to understand how your divorce will impact your taxes more thoroughly.
At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we're happy to help Texans navigate divorce. You can contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313 to schedule a consultation with our team and learn more about the services we offer.