What Is The Cost of Collaborative Divorce?

Divorces are expensive. But don’t take our word for it. Here are a few true stories.

Example #1: Divorce Litigation

According to public record, Joanne Simon’s divorce in Iredell County, NC, cost approximately $288,000. Her ex-husband spent another $200,000-$250,000.

The couple owned a large marital estate—approximately $2 million. The court awarded each about $1 million. While that may sound like a lot of money, they spent nearly 25% of their entire net worth (23 years of life savings) on divorce litigation.

Not all litigated divorces cost half a million dollars. Some cost more. Some cost less. But it is always expensive. Why? Court proceedings involve complex procedures and regulations about documenting legal claims, gathering evidence for trial, framing legal issues, and presenting the case to a judge. It’s not a simple or efficient process. It is also timely, requiring hundreds of attorney hours to prepare and present a case. Those hours result in large legal bills for clients. Unfortunately, most people discover these fees do not translate into creating a high-quality process for resolving conflict. Ask anyone who’s gone through a costly divorce.

Example #2: Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation in North Carolina is typically a settlement procedure, in which the attorneys representing the two spouses decide to involve a third party, “neutral” attorney, or mediator, to help facilitate the settlement negotiations. Some attorneys recommend divorce mediation as an alternative way to reduce the cost of litigation.

Here’s the kicker with mediation. Conflicted spouses each pay for their legal representation and they have the extra fee of a third attorney to serve as the mediator. The desired goal is to settle the case before it reaches litigation and a court judge. In the successful cases, the parties usually end up saving enough in reduced legal fees to make it cost-effective to pay the mediator.

Mediation, however, is still an unnecessarily expensive approach. The process follows the same legal procedures as a court litigated divorce. In other words, mediation is also inefficient, complex and costly. In fact, most divorce mediation in North Carolina occur after a lawsuit has been filed. And it is not unusual for mediation divorces to cost $50,000-$100,000.

Example #3 Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce offers a less expensive alternative to litigation and mediation.

Collaborative law proceedings are designed by legal statute to remove the divorce process from the court and its costly, complex proceedings. Collaborative divorce proceedings are handled more efficiently, provide quality legal representation and afford the parties the strongest protection of their legal rights. When a settlement is reached during the collaborative process (which occurs about 90% of the time), the parties have completely avoided wasting tons of money and valuable dollars. As a result, the cost to divorce in collaborative divorce proceedings is typically between $5,000-$25,000. In the rare 10% where a settlement is not reached, the couple can still pursue litigation. In the majority of cases where a settlement is reached, the couple saves tens—even hundreds—of thousands of dollars.