Divorce is Expensive
When a couple gets married, especially in today’s world of Insta-famous influencers and shows like Marriage or Mortgage, Say Yes to the Dress, and Disney’s Fairytale Weddings, the cost of a wedding can easily top six (or seven) figures even before the honeymoon begins. However, after spending that kind of money, the couples are never guaranteed to live happily ever after.
Divorce may still be in their future, and with it comes another painful price tag. The good news is that with a divorce, you will maintain some level of control over how much you’re going to spend on completing the process. Initial fees, such as the consultation fee or the initial retainer amount, may be set by the attorney or the law firm you hire, but the fees you incur and how often you are required to replenish your retainer fee can be influenced greatly by your actions throughout your case.
If you want your divorce price tag to be as painful and expensive, or more so than your wedding’s price tag, be sure to do everything on this list, and you can be assured that you will spend (or rather, waste) a truly scandalous amount of money:
Don’t listen to any of your attorney’s advice.
When you hire a divorce attorney, you’re hiring your professional guide for a legal process that you likely have (hopefully) never been exposed to before. Your attorney will offer advice from the very first meeting about everything from how you should conduct yourself around your soon-to-be-ex and your children to how you should be gathering information and documentation of the marital estate that the family court will require at different stages of the process.
Following your attorney’s advice to the letter and never arguing with their years (or decades) of experience is usually the best course of action for someone who wants to ensure they have enough money left over for retirement following the divorce. But if you truly love watching your bank account decrease by several thousand dollars every month, by all means, don’t listen to a word your attorney tells you.
Don’t follow any of the court orders in your case.
Once your case begins, more than likely, you’ll have an initial hearing, sometimes called a Temporary Hearing, to set the terms of how your separation will be handled pending the finalization of your divorce. The order from that hearing will address things like who pays the mortgage, the car payments, which parent owes the other child support (and/or alimony), how the parenting schedule will be set, and which spouse gets which personal property during the litigation period.
There will also be provisions generally referred to as restraints on conduct during litigation. These typically include common sense things like don’t harass each other, don’t stalk each other, don’t do anything that could cause the other person to get fired, don’t talk bad about each other in front of the children, and don’t sell or destroy any marital assets that have yet to be valued or divided.
If you refuse the follow the instructions found within the court order, you put yourself at risk of being taken back into court to face contempt allegations. If you are found in contempt, in most states, you can face additional court fines, payment of the other party’s attorney fees, hours of community service, or even jail time. Sometimes, you might face all of the above if your contempt was grievous enough to warrant such sanctions.
Not only will these types of sanctions prove very costly by themselves, but they will also significantly increase your attorney’s fees for the time required to prepare your defense, attend court for the contempt hearing, and possibly make your entire case that much harder to settle under terms you’d appreciate over the long-haul.
Let your emotions guide you when negotiating personal property in divorce mediations.
If I had a dollar for every time a client has allowed their emotions to rule the day when it comes to negotiating over personal property, I’d have enough to retire quite comfortably by now. Listen, I get it. Personal property can sometimes hold a lot of sentimental meaning, but at the end of the day, it’s usually just “stuff” – and stuff is almost always replaceable in some way or another.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you are arguing over who gets unique or truly special items, like artwork that was given to both of you as a wedding gift by someone’s long-dead relative, then okay. Spending some hard-earned cash to ensure you walk away with that irreplaceable and priceless asset might be something to seriously consider.
However, just about every divorce attorney, including me, has horror stories about the things their clients were willing to spend hundreds of dollars an hour fighting over in mediation. For instance, when I was a very young lawyer, I witnessed two parties arguing at the courthouse steps over who would get the blender (and not a special or unique one). This argument involved both parties paying their attorneys for over an hour at their respective rates over a blender that could’ve been replaced for less than $50 at the local Target.
Divorce is expensive, but it doesn’t have to financially ruin you.
The process of divorce can be expensive – both financially and emotionally, but it doesn’t have to ruin your financial future if you listen to your attorney’s advice at the outset, follow your attorney’s advice and guidance continually throughout your case, including following all court orders as closely as possible, and you are reasonable in your negotiations about dividing up things that are easily replaceable or don’t add much to the financial bottom line of your divorce settlement.
If you and your spouse are considering divorce, don’t make any decisions about how to proceed before talking with a trusted and experienced family law attorney. Your divorce and any settlement you create will be subject to your state’s divorce laws. Without discussing your situation with an attorney, your agreement may not be what you want or what is beneficial to your future.
If you’re in South Carolina, you are welcome to reach out to Ben Stevens today to discuss your specific situation. If you are not, Mr. Stevens is happy to provide a referral to a well-qualified attorney located in your state. He is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and he is a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has represented parents in separation, divorce, and other Family Court cases all across South Carolina for over twenty-five years. If you or someone you know is facing a child custody or visitation case, contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule a consultation.
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Author: J. Benjamin Stevens
Articles have been Reprinted with permission from the charlotte observer and Mike Hunter.
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