The Long and Short of It…

The Cost of Divorce

I often hear clients and friends comment on “what their lawyer got them” – for instance, somebody’s neighbor’s lawyer got her $500 a week in child support; or my sister’s best friend’s cousin’s lawyer got him the house, the car, and all his retirement. We’ve all heard this or are even guilty of saying this at one point or another. It’s human nature to seek out friends and family for advice when facing a difficult situation, particularly in a divorce. I certainly encourage this but it can be dangerous to rely on this information when setting your expectations in divorce. No two divorces are ever the same.

It is a misconception that you get out of your divorce what your lawyer “gets” you. A lawyer is there to advocate for you, sure, and zealous advocacy reaps reward, yes, but not all divorces are tailored for a battle to see who “gets” the most. Your lawyer should be an ally to help define your priorities, advocate for your needs, and reduce the cost of your divorce, both financially and emotionally.

While there are certainly several divorces where one spouse seems to “win,” the cost at which that victory came may harbor its own bitterness. It is not inconceivable, in fact its very realistic, that half, if not all, of the value you seek to “win” may be spent on the fight itself. And that cost is notwithstanding the emotional toll of the battle, which lingers on much longer than the financial impact. Divorce is often driven by emotion; once that emotion subsides, it may be replaced with anger and resentment – is what you are fighting for worth it? Before you compare what your friend “got” in a divorce, ask what it cost, not just in dollars.

Our adversarial system has created a divorce machine, churning out divorces at an alarming rate. The family law industry is a $50 billion a year industry in the U.S. – that seems illustrative to me of a divorce process that is unduly expensive and acrimonious. Your divorce does not have to be; choose to preserve your financial and emotional well-being whenever and wherever possible. Write your own divorce story.