As discussed in other blogs, there are four questions that must be answered in any divorce:
- grounds – . the reason you are getting divorced
- property division – how you and your spouse are going to divide your “stuff”
- child custody – how you and your spouse are going to continue to care for your children
- support – how you and your spouse are going to financially support your children and, if appropriate, continue to provide financial support to the other spouse
Sometimes these questions are simple. Sometimes figuring out what to do is extremely complex. Sometimes our clients basically agree and sometimes they adamantly disagree. The level of complexity of the case, and the degree to which you and your spouse can communicate effectively to resolve problems, is the single greatest factor in determining how expensive your divorce is going to be and how long it is going to take. One of the earliest decisions that Held Law Firm works with our clients to make is to determine the method to resolve these issues.
There are four basic means:
- Agreed Divorces. These are also called irreconcilable differences divorces. These are divorces that generally involve pretty simple issues and spouses who don’t want to be married any longer, but basically can get along. To get an agreed divorce, you have to agree on all the details for the four questions that must be answered before you even file for divorce. To see if you might be able to get an agreed divorce, we encourage you to read our blog here (link) Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get an agreed divorce; most people cannot After all, if you could agree on everything related to your marriage, you likely wouldn’t be considering divorce in the first place!
- Mediation. If you and your spouse don’t get along, but you have a pretty traditional family with pretty traditional finances, you can still avoid the expense of litigation by going through mediation. You can read more about the mediation process here. (link). In mediation, each of you obtain information you need to analyze your position, and you and your lawyer hire a third lawyer whose job it is to help you two compromise on your areas of disagreement. Because of the additional work to get that information, and the cost of hiring that third lawyer, divorces that are resolved through mediation cost roughly twice as much as agreed divorces.
- Collaborative Divorce. If you and your spouse get along but have lots of questions about how to resolve the four questions that prevent you from agreeing, collaborative divorce is for you. In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse jointly obtain information from various experts, such as child psychologists, financial, tax and estate planners, and others as necessary. You share the information openly and work together to determine how your post-divorce family will operate. Because of the fees charged by these experts, collaborative divorce can be more expensive, but it has the greatest potential to maximize the positive functioning of your family relationships afterwards.
- Litigation. Due to the expense – litigation costs 5-10 times as much as any other option – resolving a divorce through litigation is to be avoided if possible. It’s likely not possible if your marriage is (a) marked by high conflict, and (b) subject to complicated financial and custody considerations.
Here’s a chart that summarizes how to think of the four options. The horizontal line shows the level of complexity. The simpler the issues that you need to be resolved about your children and your finances, the more likely you can have an Agreed Divorce (lower left quandrant) and save a lot of money. As the issues get more complex, even if you and your spouse get along, you’ll likely need to pay for the advice of professionals to maximize the chance for your post-divorce life to be the best it can be.
The vertical line shows the level of animosity between you and your spouse. The more you and your spouse fight, the less likely you can have an Agreed Divorce and will have to go through mediation.
If your case is complex and you and your spouse cannot get along, be prepared to pay for litigation.
At Held Law Firm, we work hard to keep costs and stress down by trying to work out agreements, by utilizing mediation, and by promoting collaborative law. But we are also prepared to stand with you and fight if need be. Give us a call and we’ll go over all these options with you, discussing your particular facts.