A recent Google search of the average cost of a divorce estimates $30,000, or $15,000/per person, https://www.thumbtack.com/p/divorce-cost.  We all know that divorce is expensive, the filing fee alone is $435 in Sonoma County.  So what can you and your spouse do to keep costs down?  Below is a list of cost inflators; do the opposite of these to help keep the costs down for your divorce.

How to Increase the Cost of a Divorce:

  • I have to win/be right/prove my spouse wronged me/our family.  California is a no-fault state so unfortunately, it doesn’t matter. 
  • Arguing/fighting over absolutely everything, regardless of the monetary value.  Your household items are valued at “thrift store value”, not what you paid or would pay to replace them.  The computer you paid $5,000 for 3 years ago is probably worth $500 today…how much in legal fees are you going to pay to maybe get the 3-year old computer worth $500?    
  • Too many phone calls and emails about the same thing.  Your professionals understand you are “concerned” about certain hot button issues.  Once they have confirmed they heard you and have noted it, do not continue to email or call about that issue as your professionals probably charge in 6-minute increments and you are racking up additional fees for something they heard the first time.   
  • Expecting your spouse to be in the same emotional place you are.  Often one spouse has been contemplating divorce for a while and the other person is blindsided when they are told.  You both need time to process and grieve and the divorce won’t go faster than the slower person. 
  • Thinking you can now finally communicate that the “elephant” has been named.  If your communication wasn’t good during your marriage, it probably won’t get better during this process unless you get professional help from people who specialize in divorce coaching.
  • Withholding information.  You are both required to disclose information and you will be filing forms that you have done so under penalty of perjury.  If you withhold information, there could be subpoenas and other discovery methods that will be very expensive.  A good rule of thumb is to disclose, disclose, disclose, even if it may not be relevant.  It’s a good way to start rebuilding trust that may have been diminished.
  • Not following through on commitments.  Again, it’s a good way to start rebuilding trust that may have been damaged.  If you say you will pick up the kids at 6:00, be there at 5:55 every time so the other person can start relying on your word during this difficult transition period.   
  • Not doing the required tasks in a timely manner or being unprepared for meetings.  You are paying professionals in 6-minute increments, don’t waste your money by not being prepared.
  • Not talking to the appropriate person.  Your attorney or financial professional will probably never be as skilled in dealing with the emotional issues as a divorce coach for example.  A divorce coach is a trained mental health professional who specializes in individual or couples counseling and understands the complexities of divorce for you and your family.
  • Putting your children in the middle.  Your divorce is between two adults, do everything you can to protect your children from your conflict.
  • Not speaking up for yourself/blaming the other person.  Be sure to ask for help if you don’t understand something and speak for yourself.  Don’t make a “you” statement or say “yes” when you mean “no”, listen more than you talk, and be aware of the people you seek advice from.  Remember that every state has different laws so your friend in Florida who recently went through a divorce can’t provide you guidance about your divorce in California. 
  • Being unrealistic about the future and expecting that nothing will change.  The reality is that there is “one-pie” that now needs to be split and you both will probably have adjustments to your lifestyle in the short term.  In the very short term, usually the only thing you can control is expenses; over time, you can have more impact on income.   Both of you should focus on how to make the separation of finances and households work for the short term and what you can do longer term to make the family feel secure.   

Susan Campbell is a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in Sonoma County and San Francisco.  More information in her bio on the “Find A Professional” page.