The question of how much a divorce will cost is often the first and only question that we get from callers. The costs that we are addressing here now and typically on early call with potential clients relates to attorney fees and litigation costs, not division of property and debt, child support, alimony or other such costs.
The answer, which many do not like to hear, is that it is entirely dependent upon the parties and depending upon the level of conflict, it can get very expensive.
Divorce Costs Depend Upon Conflict
Attorney’s fees and costs are dependent upon the time put in by the attorney and all the various costs associated with a divorce. These are determined by conflict. How so?
Every contested issue, unless it is resolved by agreement of the parties, can end up as the subject of a hearing or trial. Many times, the judge will force the parties to settlement facilitation on contested issues. Settlement facilitators are themselves lawyers, i.e. they charge hourly fees as well.
Keep in mind this one important point: lawyers bill hourly and the hours expended are determined by the level of conflict.
Expensive Divorce Can be Avoided
It is possible to get a quick, easy, relatively stress free and inexpensive divorce. This is possible when the parties can come to an agreement on all the important terms of the divorce.
However, there is more to it than simply a generalized agreement. It must be put in writing and filed with the court for the divorce to be final. This is where, if it has not already, conflict will erupt.
Seeing the terms in writing and potentially binding in a court of law makes many formerly agreeable couples uneasy. Often on reflection or some prodding by friends and/or family or an attorney, those terms become unacceptable.
Conflict Begets Conflict
It might be surprising to many, unless you have been a party to such a divorce or work in the field, how seemingly trivial disputes can erupt into full scale high divorce hell.
These issues erupt from all kinds of issues including the major issues like child custody, division of the marital home, division of retirement accounts, alimony and so on. They also arise from more trivial matters such as how to divide the music collection or who keeps the boat.
Conflict arises in many areas. Some conflict may be founded. Other times, it is grounded in what are non-negotiable statutorily based issues.
Finally, they frequently arise from matters that are not really negotiable at all. This would include the often-hot button topic of child support. It is amazing how often people want to fight over child support and the lengths to which they may go for very slight gains.
The fact is child support in New Mexico is dictated by the New Mexico Child Support Worksheets. It is statutory. It is not negotiable and there is very little ambiguity in the terms that are included in the computation. Yet, couples will go back and forth to court on child support running up thousands in attorneys fees for little gain, and more frequently, no gain at all.
If there were errors in the computation, that should be fixed. If there is a significant change in income between the parties, that should be addressed. However, if a party just doesn’t want to pay support or on the other side just wants gouge the other, you are in for a lot of attorney fees or you will be proceeding without one.
Emotions are Cancerous in a Divorce
Many times, divorces are fought on emotional grounds. There is no rhyme or reason to the disputes. One or both of the parties are trying to even emotional scores from the marriage. This approach can literally bankrupt both parties.
Some battles are worth fighting. Settling emotional scores is not among them. This approach can lead to financial ruin.
There are battles worth fighting. There are matters honestly subject to dispute. There are others than can be quite complicated and must be addressed. This is to be expected and can in itself drive up the costs of divorce.
An Experienced Divorce Attorney Can Help
Again, there are some matters that must be addressed and there are others that are best left alone. It is important to know the difference and try to proceed accordingly.
It is important to have an experienced divorce attorney at your side to help guide you through a potential minefield to avoid conflict to the degree possible.
Not every battle has to be fought. Not every concession is a defeat. Keep this in mind and you can keep the costs of your divorce in check.