How much should your divorce cost you?

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Smiley Face (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Getting along during the divorce process is a key factor to the rest of your life. By deciding not to fight during this critical juncture you can make long-term decisions based not on factors such as revenge, annoyance, hostility, or bankruptcy. Instead, amicable dissolutions afford participants the opportunity to envision a productive and happy future and create mutual decisions designed to lead to that future.

Our firm recently represented the Wife (call her Jane) in a contested divorce in which the parties depleted their savings account and had not reached any agreements. The Husband (Jerry) was reluctant to show Jane his bank and credit card statements, so we had to keep dragging everyone to court to demand more discovery. Jerry refused to relocate until Jane would agree to give him more than half of the value of the house.  They continued to live together and aggravate each other. Months went by and the only progress being made was how frequently the lawyers found themselves back in court. Eventually, their money spent, their anger with each other at an all-time high, and the lawyers’ fees continuing to grow, their house went into foreclosure.

Jerry and Jane continued to blame each other for the unfortunate turn of events and lost their house. They lost their home – a beautifully decorated 3 bedroom 2 bath house in the suburbs with a half acre of land  – to the bank.  Not because they could not work, but because they could not work together. Once the house was gone and the parties were living separately, there was not much left for them to fight about and the divorce resolved rather quickly after that – with each party taking a share of the mutual debts away with them.

It drives me crazy to see this outcome. Those people invested more money in their anger than in their future. By using whatever resources they had to fuel a divorce that did not need to be contested they each gave up on their own long-term happiness.

Picture a different scenario. One in which the parties realize that the house needs to be sold before they can each move on. They work together to put it on the market in as

House for sale - one of many in the district

good condition as they can get it; and then sell the house for a profit. The profit can then be divided between them. Much more simple.  And frugal!

A divorce like this can go from costing $40,000 for the contested version down to $5000 in an amicable split. What happens to the remaining $35,000? They pay off some debts and split the rest. They can each start their new lives with a nest egg and a smile; instead of the dual burdens of financial debt and emotional resentment.

How much should your divorce cost you? Two answers:

Financially: A little less than you can reasonably afford.

Emotionally: Absolutely nothing.

What We Love: Deciding in advance to control your own finances during a difficult transition.

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Published by Sharon Oberst DeFala

Sharon Oberst DeFala has practiced low-impact safe divorce since 1992.

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