Why Does Divorce Cost so Much Money?

When a couple gets divorced, one of the first things either person worries about is the cost.  While managing the cost is a reasonable concern, the reality is….here is the honest answer….divorce is expensive.  Unless there are no children, virtually no assets, each person is self-supporting and there is no issue of domestic violence, divorce is going to be costly.  Think about the reason why.  Likely no other area of the law, in a single lawsuit, presents the parties and their lawyers with the myriad of different and often unrelated legal and emotional issues which must be handled.

Family Law Attorney as a General Practitioner

Wikipedia explains on its page titled “Lawyer”, that “[I]n many countries, lawyers are general practitioners who will take almost any kind of case that walks in the door.  In others, there has been a tendency since the start of the 20th century for lawyers to specialize early in their careers.  In countries where specialization is prevalent, many lawyers specialize in representing one side in one particular area of the law; thus, it is common in the United States to hear of plaintiffs’ personal injury attorneys.”

While the area of practice known as Family Law is specialized, the area itself requires lawyers to be knowledgeable in many subjects. So while  family law is a narrow area of the law, it very much resembles the model of a general practitioner; except, instead of handling lots of varied individual cases for many people, a single case presents numerous and varied issues to be resolved for a single person.  Therefore, when a case presents, for example, the nine issues of custody, child support, spousal support, division of pension plans, real estate, financial accounts, a closely-held business, debts, and taxes, it is similar to handling nine separate lawsuits.   One lawsuit is expensive enough…but nine lawsuits?  The costs will inevitably mount.

Complexity is Expensive

Family law attorneys are acutely aware of the complexity and expense of a divorce.  Some lawyers will encourage a client to fight over every issue; most lawyers, however, guide the client to narrow the issues. That means focusing on the importance of each issue at dispute, and the expense of handling each such separate issue like a separate lawsuit. Some clients insist on arguing over each issue even when they are advised by their lawyer that their chance of getting all that they want is slim.  Depending upon the client’s wishes and the lawyer’s strategy to achieve them, how the many issues in a divorce are handled will directly impact the cost.

The wildcard in all of this is, even if one party desires to narrow the issues to be handled so as to keep the cost down, if the other party does not share this same point of view there is no other option than to “play ball” and fight back. This could put all issues before the court, and if there are nine issues in dispute as given in our example above, there are essentially nine lawsuits to be handled within the single divorce action.  No two ways about it…this is expensive.