Why Are Some Divorces So Costly?

What drives divorce costs dramatically higher is one thing and one thing only: disagreement between the parties. If the husband and wife can agree on the key issues, such as property division, custody, and child support, all that remains is drafting of documents. But when there are battles, negotiations, debates - all those things take time. And as noted above, the lawyers are charging by the tenth of an hour. So, if both sides are represented by attorneys (and they should be!) a debate over who gets to keep the painting in the living room or a wedding present can quickly become far more expensive than the painting or buying a new toaster oven. That's not to say that key issues and disagreements shouldn't be fought out, either in negotiation or litigation, but simply a word to the wise. It often makes sense to settle economic issues rather than litigate them.

In one of my first divorce cases, the parties argued for hours about who would keep the new mattress that the parties purchased a few months ago. Each of these parties paid more to their attorneys than the cost of the mattress. It made no economic sense, but neither party wanted to the other party to have the mattress.

You can keep your legal fees down by following these rules:

1. Be organized. Your lawyer will need documents and information in order to negotiate and prepare your divorce. If you have that information available, you can save time and money.

2. Try to control your emotions. Divorce is a difficult thing for many people, but try to see this aspect as a business deal. You've already dealt with the emotionally difficult issue of breaking up. Now you're just dividing the dishes.

3. Be reasonable. Litigating issues is expensive. If you can reach an agreement with your spouse, do so. Save the fights for the really important things.

4. Communicate honestly with your lawyer. Ask questions when you have them. But make sure you've given accurate answers to the lawyer's questions, in order to avoid expense and delays when the other side comes up with something that surprises your attorney.