This is the most common question in any divorce. My typical attorney answer: it depends.
I am not trying to avoid giving an answer, but it really does depend upon many factors. It depends upon the level of conflict between the couple. If a couple can manage to control their emotions, then they can probably keep the costs down. Becoming emotional can cloud your thinking and cause you to act in ways that delay the process and increase costs. Time really is money, especially when you are in a divorce.
The conflict level can drive up the cost of your divorce.
The more you are willing to cooperate, the less the cost will be. At a minimum, California has statutory filing fees of $435.00 per person, even if you cooperate, and there are additional statutory fees that must be paid when couples battle in court.
The complexity of your case can also affect the cost.
If you are a couple in a simple financial situation, the cost will be lower. Couples with few assets, maybe a car and a couple of bank accounts and credit cards, have less financially complex cases and potentially less to fight over. Couples who have been married a short period of time, don’t have any children, don’t own a home, don’t have any pension or retirement account will usually have lower divorce costs.
The more complex financially your case, the more expensive it will be.
California is a community property state. That sounds like everything is divided 50-50, but there are nuances and exceptions to the law that can change whether the property is divided equally or not. Circumstances that made a case more complex include where one spouse/partner who owned a home before marriage, whether a spouse/partner inherited property or money during marriage that was used to purchase an asset, or whether a business was started before or during the marriage, or whether one spouse/partner’s employer awards stock options, or if one spouse/partner has student loan debt, and other scenarios. These are different circumstances that will make the case more financially complex and will drive up the cost when helping a couple settle the division of their assets and debts.
In a Collaborative Divorce, we have communications coaches, also called divorce coaches, who are mental health professionals tasked with guiding the couple through the emotional stress of the divorce and the anxiety of discussing money to enable them to make better legal decisions. The coaches can help you understand the underlying issues and know that the fight is not the real problem. The coaches can help the couple learn to listen instead of screaming at each other.
That saves time and money by getting to the root of the problem.
In the Collaborative Divorce process your attorneys help with the legal process, coaches to help with the emotional process, and a financial neutral helps with division of assets and debts and calculations for support. In the Collaborative Divorce process, you are using each professional to the best of his/her ability. Thus, your overall cost of the divorce is less as you are paying each professional only to do what they do best and assist with the different areas of the divorce. Overall, the Collaborative Divorce team approach involves different professionals who help the couple to save money on their divorce.