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Costs of a Collaborative Divorce

A Collaborative divorce is usually less expensive than a traditional divorce that is settled out of court  (divorces that go to trial are always the most expensive).   In some cases, mediation is appropriate, and if attorneys are not involved, mediation is generally less expensive than either collaborative or traditional methods.[1] 

Collaborative divorce has been stated to be “generally less costly” or “more cost effective” than traditional litigation divorces.  Here’s a quote from a US News & World Report, dated June 13, 2008, from the article entitled Collaborative Divorce Could Be Society’s Wave of the Future :

“There are several reasons for collaborative divorces, not the least of which is cost savings.

Coontz quotes one expert who estimates the average cost of a mediated divorce is less than $7,000.

The average cost of a collaborative divorce is less than $20,000. The average cost of a divorce

negotiated by rival lawyers is $27,000, while a primo-style, nasty, litigated affair runs some $78,000.”

Whether a litigation divorce or a collaborative divorce, the total costs will depend on the individual case.  Factors such as the complexity of the marital estate, the level of antagonism between the couple, and the ability of the couple to communicate, will determine how long it takes to reach agreement.  However, several aspects of collaborative divorce make it more cost-effective than traditional litigation:

1.    Resources are spent on helping you and your spouse reach agreement, instead of on fighting in Court.

  1.  It may seem like paying a whole collaborative team of professionals (two attorneys, two divorce coaches, a financial specialist, etc.) would add up to a higher overall bill, but consider this… Divorce coaches, for example, are trained to help others cope with their emotions more effectively, whereas attorneys are not.  Let’s say a spouse’s anger is creating impasses and making decisions extremely difficult to agree on. To pay a divorce coach for an hour or two to help a spouse better manage his or her anger (and coaches tend to have lower hourly fees than attorneys) is a cost-saving measure that can prevent hours of wasted attorney time.

  1.  Because the collaborative method is transparent from the beginning, time is not wasted “starting over,” such as in a traditional divorce, when new, unexpected information arises that was previously kept hidden.

  1. During a four-way meeting in a Collaborative divorce, both spouses meet together with their attorneys (or divorce coaches) at the same time. What might seem like a double-hourly rate, as both attorneys are paid for that time, is actually one of the most cost-saving strategies of the process. When all are in attendance, discussing and making agreements right then and there, it saves countless hours of phone calls between spouse and attorney, and between the two attorneys. (Think here: Phone tag, messages, irrelevant and even inaccurate information that later needs to be cleared up with more phone calls, etc.)

  1. Because decisions in the Collaborative process are made and agreed on by both spouses, it is most often the case that these agreements are kept and followed-through on.  Take, for example, custody and child schedules. It is much more common in a traditional divorce for the parents to have to re-engage with the legal system, in post-divorce disputes and litigation, rehashing and renegotiating over child schedules, and to do so multiple times.  Imagine how significantly this drives up the costs.

Lastly, there are aspects of a divorce that can never be measured in dollars that can make Collaborative divorce the less expensive option, especially in the long haul. What is really of value that has no price tag?

  • Your dignity and peace of mind,
  • Having a sense of control in the process, knowing that your objectives will be considered,
  • The feeling that comes from knowing you acted with integrity,
  • The ability to fully move on in your life, emotionally and mentally, as well as legally and financially,
  • The confidence that the damage to your children from the divorce was minimized and that they are being co-parented most effectively,
  • Your capacity to be fully present and healthy in your next intimate relationship, rather than arriving with a truckload of baggage that can eventually damage the relationship.

[1] It should be noted that mediation without attorneys means reaching agreement without the benefit of legal counsel.  This presents obvious risks, and is not advisable in some cases.