A question that we often get during divorce consultations is, “How much will the divorce cost?” While that is a valid question, there is no one answer. Each case is unique. Some divorcing couples have very few assets or generally agree on how they want to divide marital property resulting in minimal cost and, on the other side of the coin; some couples disagree on everything leading to high divorce costs. Let’s look at factors affecting divorce costs:
- Arkansas is a “fault” state; meaning the parties must have a valid reason to request the divorce. The reason does not need to be some specific, wrongful act or behavior that led to the divorce. If both parties are in agreeance, then the cost will be minimal. However, if a “fault divorce” is filed there may be additional costs associated with providing evidence of the fault. Arkansas recognizes the following fault grounds:
- A felony conviction
- Alcohol abuse for at least one year
- Cruel treatment that endangers the other spouse’s life
- Behavior that results in intolerable humiliation, embarrassment, or shame to the other spouse
- Incurable insanity, and
- Willful failure to support the other spouse despite a legal obligation to do so.
- Divorces involving minor children tend to cost a little more, especially if one spouse is being unreasonable about the children, visitation and/or child support. To help determine child support received or paid, it is beneficial to provide documentation detailing how much it generally costs to meet your child’s needs. You should also consider your child’s current standards of living and what it will cost to maintain it. Read my previous blog detailing child support payments here.
- Ironically, financial disagreements such as alimony increase overall divorce expenses. Alimony disputes can get very detailed requiring financial analysts, accountants and the like to provide evidence in each party’s favor. These disagreements can and most likely will extend divorce proceedings as they drag on.
- As mentioned, property division has an effect on the expenses associated with divorce proceedings. Couples that have a lot of marital property can expect a longer and more costly divorce. In addition to more attorneys’ fees, other professionals will need to be consulted such as financial analysts, real estate appraisers, personal property appraisers, and so on.
- Cooperation or non-cooperation play major roles in costs associated with divorce. For example, if one party is unwilling to fully disclose all their assets and liabilities then it is inevitable that costs will increase as formal filings will be made requiring the spouse to provide truthful documents.
In order to keep costs at bay during a divorce, you and your spouse should agree on the following:
- Marital property division.
- Alimony/Spousal support.
- Child support.
- Child custody.
- Visitation schedules.
What if you don’t have the money to hire your own attorney? These days it is increasingly unusual to see judges issue orders requiring one spouse to pay the other’s divorce attorney’s fees in dual income families. If you don’t have the cash readily available, a judge may let the spouse use some of the marital property for attorney’s fees with the understanding that when the property is eventually divided, the other spouse will be reimbursed. In the case that one spouse intentionally drives up the cost of litigation by delaying proceedings and withholding information pertinent to the divorce, a judge may be inclined to grant the other spouse’s request for attorney’s fees as a penalty for the inappropriate conduct. Examples of conduct that the court does not look too kindly upon:
- Continuously filing motions with the court about trivial matters.
- Refusal to comply with court orders.
- Delay in providing requested information to the other spouse.
- Failure to appear for hearings or court-ordered mediation sessions.
Generally speaking, divorce attorneys charge by the hour, rather than a flat rate fee due to the uniqueness of each case. A fee called a “retainer” will be required to retain our services. This in turn “prebooks” your attorney’s time just for you. Any money not earned by the attorney is returned to you at the end of the divorce proceedings.
Schedule a consultation with Kevin Hickey Law Partners to assist you in your divorce. We will help you plan and move forward with the divorce process and keep you informed about your legal rights and requirements. Whether your divorce is clear-cut or more difficult, no divorce is ever simple. Even if the divorce is uncontested, it is advisable that each party to the divorce seek legal counsel. Let us make sure all the forms are filled out correctly, keep you from agreeing to something that could eventually harm you and identify assets that you might not even know you are entitled to. In many of the cases we see, the divorce proceedings start out amicable, but end quite the opposite. It is best to begin with your own attorney, because in the end it could end up costing your more money.