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Save Your Pocket Book And Your Sanity

Jan 10, 2008
So you are considering a divorce, but you do not know much about the process itself except for what you have heard from your friends. You probably have children and a house. Maybe you own a business and you wonder what will happen with all of these things.

Perhaps the principal concern for everybody is the cost of the divorce, which can make people feel that trapped in their situation. While divorces are not cost-free, there are ways of making sure that you get the best value for your dollar.

Divorce Litigation is Expensive: Most divorces are expensive. Divorcing spouses can end up paying between $5,000 and $30,000 or more in legal fees and court costs.

If a divorce is more contentious, then it is likely to cost more because you may find yourself in court several times to argue about support payments, child custody, the use of your home, or restraining orders, all before you receive a final judgment of dissolution.

Every time you go back to court, you will incur fees for lawyer's preparation, time spent in court, and any extra communication with your attorney before and after going to court.

Divorces often settle before trial, but if a case goes to trial, you will pay even more fees for your lawyer, as well as fees for expert witnesses like accountants and appraisers who are needed explain to the court how much the your property is worth.

Even after the trial and the judgment of dissolution, litigation may not be over. You will likely find yourself in court many times in the future to argue over spousal support, child support, and child custody and visitation.

Divorce Takes A Long Time and Time is Money: On top of all those expenses, most divorce cases take at least a year and some can drag on for several years because the divorcing spouses get caught up in the contentious nature of the proceedings.

Most people do not intend to drag out cases, but still find themselves involved in the divorce two or three years down the road.

For instance, your spouse might take a stubborn position, sometimes at the behest of his or her attorney, just to see if he or she can squeeze more out of you. You may give in to your spouse avoid a fight.

In that situation, your spouse took advantage of your wish to keep it nice. Or, you may simply be unable to pay your attorney to fight your spouse. This is a common strategy in ordinary litigation, but it can be devastating in a divorce because of the emotions involved.

On the other hand, you may fight your stubborn spouse, resulting in a vicious and expensive battle that could have been avoided by more flexible and reasonable approach. You will begin fighting over things that were not important, simply because the atmosphere dictates the fight and neither side wants to back down for fear that the other side will use the moment of compromise to pounce.

Before you know it, your divorce becomes an expensive and protracted battle, just like your friends told you it would be.

There Is A Way To Avoid A Long and Expensive Divorce: Fortunately, for most people, there is a way to avoid the conflict and complete a divorce within a much more reasonable length of time and at much lower expense.

Collaborative law is a process that when properly implemented will prevent exactly the kinds of scenarios presented above. It can cost much, much less, and take only a few months, instead of several years. Most importantly, it is designed to prevent the contentious and emotionally draining litigation practices by preventing animosity and encouraging cooperation.

How It Works: In the collaborative process, you will begin by recognizing that scenarios like the one described above can happen without their really intending them, simply because of the adversarial nature of the process.

The process begins by selecting collaborative lawyers, who are specially trained in the collaborative process. Very few lawyers are trained in collaborative divorce, and because the approach is so radically different, an untrained lawyer will usually be less effective and more expensive.

In response to that terrible prospect, both you and your spouse, along with your collaborative lawyers, agree in writing to be open and respectful, not to take your dispute into court, and not to take unreasonable positions just to see if they can succeed in squeezing more out of the other side. You will openly negotiate the terms of your divorce, making mutual agreements about property division, child and spousal support payments, and child custody and visitation.

You will negotiate the agreements together, in a series of meetings with your spouses and your respective collaborative attorneys.

Some collaborative divorces can be completed with just one or two such meetings, others take a few more. Almost all of them are completed within a few months, though, without going to court, without racking up shocking attorney fees, and without using litigation to destroy the you and your spouse's financial and emotional stability.
About the Author
Erin Rhames-Childs and Jerry Childs are also Fresno divorce litigation attorneys who provide services for divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, adoptions, guardianships, grandparent rights, domestic partnerships, and more. Visit us on the web at www.childsandchilds.com
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