Facing a divorce is a daunting, sometimes frightening prospect, and “How much will my divorce cost?” is perhaps the most consistent concern among those considering ending their marriages. As with so many other divorce-related issues, the answer is usually, “It depends.”
Aside from issues such as valuation, misconduct, hiding assets, addiction, and dissipation, all of which can add to the cost of a lawyer’s services, the process by which the divorce takes place can play a major role in increasing or decreasing the overall cost.
In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has a lawyer, and other professionals, including a financial specialist and mental health coach, are routinely included as part of the problem-solving team. A child specialist may also participate in the process. With all of those professionals involved, it may sound as if a collaborative divorce is unaffordable for many couples.
There are, however, good, solid reasons a collaborative divorce will likely save you money in the long run. Here are two:
Lawyers know the law and they know about negotiations. They are not, however, as well-versed in financial issues as a financial advisor or CPA. The financial professional assists not only in gathering the financial information but also in analyzing tax consequences, and suggesting ways of saving taxes. The mental health professional keeps the divorcing couple on task by helping them cope with the challenging emotions they are experiencing, and uses their knowledge of child development to help the parents create a workable parenting plan to serve the children’s best interests.
Because the traditional divorce process is based upon the civil courts model of one party opposing the other, divorcing spouses find themselves having both to attack their partner and defend themselves, often at the cost of upsetting and alienating their children. Then, when the divorce is complete, the warring parties have to figure out a way to engage in cooperative parenting. Having spent months or more staring at each other across battlements, they now have to figure out a way to sit together at parent-teacher conferences, cooperate around scheduling changes, and plan birthday parties together.
A collaborative divorce is conducted using interest-based negotiations, a system of coming up with solutions to difficult problems by taking into account what each person needs and wants, rather than by pointing accusing fingers. When spouses learn to listen to each other, a skill that is constantly reinforced in the collaborative process, they discover that, even though they no longer want to be intimate partners, they can learn to work together for their children’s benefit. Then, when changes need to be made to the parenting plan or to the support arrangements, they know that, having worked peacefully through their divorce, they can return to the bargaining table, rather than starting new battles, thereby saving both their financial and emotional resources.
When considering how you want to conduct your divorce, think not just about your immediate pain or anger but also consider what you want your future and that of your children to look like. Avoiding future conflict will bring peace to you and your family, and will save you thousands of dollars as you avoid court battles over enforcement and modification of your divorce judgment.
Navigating and transitioning the divorce process can be daunting. Certain divorce processes support a better planned transition than others. To learn about your Missouri divorce process options contact one of our experienced St. Louis Collaborative Law professionals today.
Alan Freed is a St. Louis family law attorney, collaborative law professional and trained mediator. He is experienced with helping one or both spouses achieve settlement. To learn more about your Missouri divorce options give him a call or visit his website.