If you’ve been considering divorce or are just starting the process, you might already be reeling at the prospect of paying a hefty price tag. A consultation could cost you a few hundred dollars. It’s well worth your money, but that’s only the beginning.
I hope you’ll consider what I’m about to share with you.
If you’re thinking about going to court for your divorce, the financial implications could be devastating. The financial cost is one of the reasons I stopped litigating cases years ago and why I now advocate so strongly for a collaborative approach. It’s my exclusive practice now.
So, How Much?
A few years ago, legal marketing firm Martindale-Nolo asked consumers how much they paid for their divorces, and attorneys how much they charged. In North Carolina, the cost varied widely depending on several factors, including the number of contested issues and whether the case went to trial. The higher the conflict, the higher the price tag. For one contested issue and no trial, their research showed a minimum of about $5,000. The cases that went to trial averaged between $12,000-$15,000. I’ve seen some cases go into six figures.
The bottom line is that typically the more cooperative the couple is, the smaller the bill. Can you see why I strongly support collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a voluntary process wherein both spouses commit to resolving their divorce outside of the court. Couples sign a legally binding contract in which they commit to work together, and with their respective attorneys, to separate assets, work out any child custody or spousal support issues, and minimize the collateral damage of divorce on their family as a whole.
Generally speaking, the collaborative process costs less than going to court. Here are some of the factors that can impact the total cost of your divorce:
Where You Live
You can’t help where you live, but where you live matters. Attorneys in Raleigh may not charge the same hourly rates as attorneys in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. If you live in New York City, your bill might be a lot higher than if you live in Mississippi, for example.
How many contested issues are there? If you have several issues to work through, such as child custody, alimony, property division, etc., it may add to your overall cost. However, if you and your spouse have no children and minimal assets to split, the total cost could be a lot less.
A seasoned attorney is worth his or her weight in gold, in my opinion. You cannot replace the working knowledge that an experienced attorney has of the law, the court system, and the process. That said, these attorneys charge accordingly for that expertise. An experienced attorney will likely charge a higher hourly rate for his or her services compared to an attorney who has been practicing for a year. You want to find the balance of attorney experience/hourly rate that works for you.
Settlement or Trial?
If you spend any amount of time on this site, you’ll know that I am a firm believer in settling divorces outside of court. I believe it is the best way to preserve your finances and your heart as much as possible. Settling cases will not only keep you out of court, but it will likely save money if the spouses and their attorneys can work together. But some couples simply can’t or won’t agree on their contested issues and they end up in court. The litigation process will cost you more money, time, and energy. Your attorney will have to file a lawsuit or respond to allegations, gather evidence, and prepare for trial.
There is a lot of work that goes into advocating for our clients. How many phone calls, e-mails, and/or meetings will it take to resolve your divorce? How many documents will your attorney be reviewing and drafting? How often will you be communicating with your attorney? Those costs are hard to predict, and they can add up, so it’s something to keep in mind. In the collaborative process, it’s possible to resolve all the issues more efficiently, which helps keep costs down.
When I opened the doors to Dasher Law, I wanted to do divorce differently. In fact, I made that my mission statement and I work every day to keep couples focused on staying out of court and moving on to the next new chapter of their lives.
If you’re ready to Divorce Differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
When clients come in for a consultation, they often want to know:
HOW SOON CAN I GET DIVORCED?
Sure, getting married can be quick and easy. But most states make it a little harder to get divorced, for a variety of reasons.
The bottom line for you if you’re considering divorce is that it could take anywhere from several months to more than a year, depending upon where you live and several other factors.
Fault v. No-fault
I practice collaborative (A.K.A. “amicable”) divorce in North and South Carolina. North Carolina is a no-fault state. That means that regardless of the reason for the divorce, the spouses must live separate and apart continuously for one full year before they can file for divorce. Unfortunately, if you’ve experienced adultery or abandonment in your marriage, it won’t expedite the divorce. You must still wait a year and at least one of you must have lived in the state for six months before you can file. (Different states have different residency requirements. Check yours.)
South Carolina is different in that you can file for divorce sooner than before one full year of separation if you have one of these fault-based grounds: adultery, desertion, physical cruelty, or habitual drunkenness/drug use. There is a 90-day waiting period if you have fault-based grounds. The spouses must also resolve all matters pertaining to the divorce, such as alimony, child custody, property division, etc., before a judge will grant the divorce. If a couple has experienced adultery or any other large breach of marital trust, it may be hard for spouses to resolve their marital issues within 90 days. In those cases, it could take a year to resolve the divorce regardless.
Your timeline will depend upon your individual situation, which is why I strongly encourage people to schedule a consultation with an attorney. A consultation will help you understand how long your divorce could take.
Collaborative v. Contentious
Another factor that could affect your divorce timeline is whether you’re divorcing amicably. If you and your spouse have decided to part ways and want to work together to disentangle, first I applaud you and believe you are making the best choice for your family. Legally speaking, in North Carolina, you’ll still have to wait one year to file for divorce after you separate. Your spouse then has 30 days to respond to the filing. After that, if you and your spouse have come to a resolution outside of court, finalizing the divorce will be a matter of getting on the court’s docket to have a judge declare you legally divorced. In South Carolina, if you have an agreement, a fault-based ground for divorce, and your spouse does not contest the filing, your divorce could be granted long before one year of separation has passed.
Depending upon where you live, getting on the court’s docket could be faster or slower than you anticipate. Mecklenburg County is always busy, so in this county, I tell my clients that if they’ve met the mandatory one year waiting period, it could take an additional 3-6 months to finalize their divorce.
As a collaborative divorce attorney, I help couples resolve their divorces outside of the courtroom. We can’t change the law to get you divorced faster, but I believe that if you can work together as a team to separate assets and decide on parenting time, you will resolve your divorce as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If you have questions, call us to set up a consultation. We do divorce differently here. We believe both sides can come through divorce as emotionally and financially healthy as possible. If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us. We’d love to help.
I’ve been practicing family law for more than a decade now. Several years ago, I decided to switch my practice from litigating cases to keeping couples out of court entirely.
What I do is called collaborative divorce, but I’m also a certified family court mediator. People often use the two terms interchangeably. I want to explain some of the differences between the two, with the hope that it will help you decide which approach you need.
Both collaborative law and mediation are in the same family, so to speak. They share the same goal of resolving family disputes outside of court. Both options give you, the client, the most control over the outcome of your case. However, they differ to the extent in which the parties are in agreement on their domestic issues.
Divorce is not always ugly. Sometimes, spouses are willing to cooperate to end their marriage very amicably. Collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained in the collaborative divorce process. Each spouse has his or her own attorney and all parties enter into a legal contract, committing to work together to separate assets and debts, decide on parenting time, alimony, and so forth. Sometimes, spouses utilize additional neutral third-party experts to help them, such as a financial planner to analyze their marital estate and make recommendations regarding an equitable division of assets.
In this scenario, I represent one spouse and advocate on that individual’s behalf. However, I also cooperate with the other side to make sure we’re all fully transparent, disclose all the financial details, and get the divorce resolved amicably and efficiently. In this approach, we all work as a team.
Mediation is different in that you have a neutral third party as a go-between for you and your spouse to help you resolve your divorce, generally in a one-day session. If you are litigating your divorce in North or South Carolina, mediation is required prior to a final trial, and a court will either appoint a mediator or both parties will agree on a mediator. If you and your ex are amicable, you can agree to mediation on your own, with or without attorneys participating in the process.
While I take many clients to mediation as their attorney, I also often serve as a private mediator for two spouses. In that scenario, I am the neutral third party. I help those who cannot come to an agreement on certain aspects of their divorce but who would still like to settle outside of court.
As a neutral, I do not advocate for either side, but I do try to help each spouse or parent see and empathize with the position of the other. Mediators cannot not give legal advice, either. They are trained to facilitate negotiations between the parties so that the parties can come to an agreement on their own terms. In both the collaborative process and mediation, you get to decide what works best for your family going forward.
Generally, parties will call my office and request one service or the other. More often, parties are confused about which option will work best for their family. If you are unsure of what you need, you can always call and schedule a consultation to discuss your specific situation in detail and receive recommendations and legal advice.
No matter what role I play, my mission is to do divorce differently. I’ve successfully mediated and collaborated on countless cases and I’m grateful that families have walked away from this process as emotional and financially intact as possible.
If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
It seems a little strange to talk about commitment when you are contemplating divorce. If your marriage is broken, chances are you’ve decided you no longer want to make any commitments to each other. But if you’ve chosen to end things amicably through a collaborative divorce, you will need commitment to get you through this process.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to practice collaborative divorce. This way of divorcing is not like many of the divorces you hear about and like many of the divorces I litigated years ago. The amount of fighting between couples and the resulting impacts on their children became too much for me to witness. Those types of divorces devastated families – emotionally and financially. I decided years ago I wanted to do divorce differently. Now, I’m specially trained to help couples work as a team to separate their assets, decide child custody, and the like.
But this process is not just a promise to play nice.
It’s a commitment – a legal commitment to work together – and as such, it must be taken seriously. If things go awry, the consequences can be damaging.
When you choose a collaborative divorce, both you and your spouse (or ex-spouse, or soon-to-be ex-spouse) will work with your respective attorneys and with each other to resolve all issues pertaining to your divorce. All parties sign a legally binding contract, requiring both sides to act in good faith, disclose all required information, and be fully transparent with one another and the collaborative team.
Sometimes, couples will hire additional experts who serve as neutral third parties to assist with specific issues. For example, a financial neutral can analyze all of the assets and debts, make tax projections, and present a spreadsheet proposing how everything can be divided most equitably. A child specialist can provide input on what custody schedule might work best for the children. A divorce coach can ensure that the spouses stay on track emotionally during the collaborative process and each have the emotional and mental health support they need to tackle the legal problems.
Change of Heart
If all parties are working together as spelled out in the contract, what could go wrong? As you can imagine, divorces can be emotionally devastating. Sometimes, spouses start off in agreement until something happens that gives them a change of heart. They no longer want to be amicable. If that’s you, I would encourage you to reconsider.
If you or your spouse stop cooperating, you are legally in breach of the contract you signed to participate in good faith during the collaborative process. That means your likely next step is entering into litigation. Remember, you’re trying to avoid the courtroom.
Whatever work you’ve done will result in very little progress if the collaborative process terminates. If you end this process, you will have to dismiss your current attorney and retain a new one. If you have an outstanding legal bill, you’ll still have to pay it. If you’ve created any documents with your attorney or had any specialists involved, you won’t be able to take any of that work product with you to the next attorney.
Although there are many reasons to stay committed to the collaborative process, the aforementioned scenarios are two very good incentives for keeping your case collaborative. I’ve been practicing collaborative law for many years now. I’ve helped couples resolve their divorces outside of the courtroom – even when there’s infidelity or marital misconduct of some kind involved. Even in these emotionally difficult circumstances, two people can still work together to end their marriage peacefully and efficiently. I’m committed to helping you divorce collaboratively.
Will you be committed?
Our mission statement here at Dasher Law is “Divorce Differently.” We know your divorce can be different. Call us to set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC