5 Factors That Can Increase the Cost of Divorce
All divorces have costs such as filing fees that cannot be avoided. However, couples can control a divorce’s price tag by understanding how these five factors drive up the cost and how to sidestep them.
Factor 1: Custody Battles
Any divorce that involves minor children will have unavoidable costs. Even the most amicable former spouses will have minor disagreements that must be resolved. In most cases, one parent will pay child support to another. Costs associated with child custody rise exponentially when every aspect is a full-on fight between the former partners. Living arrangements, vacation schedules, visitation, and decision-making authority are all areas where parents can vehemently disagree.
Undoubtedly, some fights are worth it. Disagreements based on the child’s best interests – and not parental animosity – should be addressed. Keeping children front and center can help parents focus on what is important and compromise on other custody issues.
Factor 2: Complex Property Division
Washington is a community property state. Assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered to belong to the marital community while any accumulated before the marriage or after separation is separate property. This simple description belies how complicated this process can be.
Property division is challenging when property is transmuted (originally separate property becomes marital). Longer marriages have a higher likelihood of transmutation. Long-time spouses usually have more assets and debt to be divided. High-net-worth marriages often include business interests, international investments, trusts, and real estate. The need for forensic accountants, business valuations, and tax professionals increases the cost of this required component of any divorce. That said, these added costs are crucial for a fair settlement in these types of cases.
Factor 3: Debt Responsibility
Who gets what property is only half of the equation. Decisions have to be made about mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, student loans, medical bills, and other liabilities must be appropriately divided. One spouse might get the car, but they might also get the associated loan. Credit card debt accumulated to pay for a spouse’s medical treatment during the marriage may be the responsibility of both, even if the card is only in one person’s name.
Before or after the divorce is final, one spouse might move out of the marital home. Those expenses usually fall on that person’s shoulders: moving boxes and supplies, movers and moving trusts, utility deposits, rent, and more.
Former spouses should remember that expenses that were once shared such as vehicle insurance will now be one person’s obligation after the divorce. Another new expense for one spouse may be alimony. Spousal support is designed to give a lower-earning spouse additional time to become self-sufficient.
Factor 4: Litigating Divorce Terms
Divorce mediation and collaborative divorce can include significant back-and-forth between parties. Time, effort, and expense grows if these less contentious divorce methods fail. While taking a case to court can be the best route for some marriage dissolutions, it will typically mean a more expensive divorce. The attorney must file formal documents with the court to frame the issues at hand. Litigated divorces run on the court’s schedule, which is not known for expediency. The lawyer will need additional time for pre-trial motions, affidavits, depositions, and prepping expert witnesses.
Factor 5: Hiring Inexperienced Divorce Counsel
Perhaps the most expensive, long-term impact is an experienced divorce counsel that does not fully understand or explain all the rights clients have in a divorce. Improperly negotiating asset and debt division can leave a client with fewer assets and more debt than is appropriate. Poorly written parenting agreements often lead to bigger and costly disputes down the road.
Before choosing an attorney for your divorce case, research their qualifications and experience. Find out how they approach each case and their clients. Determine if they are accessible or hard to reach. Talk to friends with divorce experience. Interview attorneys to find the one who is the best fit for your case.
Set up a consultation with a McKinley Irvin attorney to discuss completing your divorce as efficiently and effectively as possible. Call us at 206-397-0399 or reach out online.