True costs of collaborative and litigation divorce
Written by Michelle N. Ogborne

Divorce: Contested or Collaborative?

Learn The True Cost of Contested Divorce and Why Collaborative Divorce is Better

There comes a moment when, with crystal clarity, you realize that your marriage is at an ending point. When you realize, no matter what, nothing will bring it back from the brink. It’s heartbreaking, changing your family in new and stressful ways. It’s easy to visualize the kind of challenges it will bring to you, your kids, and your ex.

The one thing most people don’t consider—it’s expensive! Let’s breakdown how divorce looks in terms of its true costs.

Contested Divorce

Contested divorce is war of attorney vs. attorney waged on the battlefield of your family’s future.

Brutal, bloody, and painful, a contested divorce is usually what people imagine when they think of divorce – attorneys using legal tactics that ultimately tear apart families. And even though there’s a “winner” at the end, the truth is that only the attorney ends up the winner.

Financial Cost

A contested divorce is a he said / she said situation in which each person hires his or her own attorney, who spends hours working on your case, both in office and in court.

One of the first things an attorney will ask you for is a completed asset evaluation worksheet. The asset evaluation is not designed to help the attorney divide the assets. Its primary purpose is to determine how much money is available and whether or not it makes sense for them to take the case.

If there’s not enough for them to get paid, they’ll most likely leave it alone. We’ve seen many attorneys take the case and later realize their client won’t be able to pay. Once this happens, they are abandoned by their attorney to figure this out on their own.

Remember, attorneys charge by the hour and need a retainer to get started. Since your retainer is usually around $5,000 to $10,000, you’ll need that money upfront before the attorney will even take on your case.

Hourly, attorneys charge between $250 and $500. Assume that roughly 100–200 hours will be needed for your case, depending on its complexity level (we are not exaggerating – when you factor in custody, parenting plans, division of assets, spousal support, child support, it really adds up).

Furthermore, if your case actually goes to trial, you’re looking at an average case time of 17.6 months to conclusion.

Oh! And you need to multiply the attorney costs by two! That means you’re looking at $25,000 to $50,000 PER PERSON at $250 per hour, and most attorneys are more.

The worst part, even if a divorce attorney takes you on, it doesn’t mean they’ll keep you on. As the cost of the divorce rises, they’ll need more money to keep it going. And if you run out of the cash to pay, they’ll stop working for you – leaving you high and dry, stuck figuring out what to do next.

Emotional Cost

When you go through a contested divorce, the emotional toll is incalculable to you and your kids.

People going through a contested divorce report feelings of isolation, frustration, depression, anger, and sadness. Each new wrinkle introduced by your ex makes the process feel even more exhausting.

Furthermore, as hard as it is on you, it’s your kids that really suffer. Even if your children are older, don’t be fooled into thinking they won’t pay an emotional cost.

A divorce is emotionally troubling enough for children. When it’s contested, it often puts the kids in a situation where they feel like they are forced to choose a parent. And worse, you can easily miss the emotional pain your kids are feeling because you’re caught up in your own world of pain and frustration.

The reality is that contested divorce has no mechanism in place to ensure your kids don’t slip through the cracks while you’re working your way to a conclusion with your ex.

Being in court and throwing barbs doesn’t do much to help your relationship, especially when there are children involved and you’re going to be working together as co-parents for the foreseeable future.

Collaborative Divorce

Financial Cost

Now let’s look at a different approach. Collaborative divorce is one in which the spouses work together, along with their children, to identify outcomes that will benefit everyone. More than purely mediation, collaborative divorce incorporates attorneys (yes, one for each spouse), a financial advisor, mediator, and communications coach.

Instead of an amount upfront and hourly billing, an Ogborne Law collaborative divorce is based on a flat, fixed fee depending on your situation.

And these are out-the-door prices that you can budget, as a family. Each person in the marriage doesn’t pay separately, yet everyone receives the same level of support in the process.

Emotional Cost

We won’t lie. Whether your divorce is contested or collaborative, there is always an emotional cost to be paid. When it comes to collaborative divorce, it’s still a stressful and emotional process – change always is.

Using our collaborative model, however, you’ll find there’s a support mechanism built in to help with communication between parties. This makes the agreement process easier, reducing stress and getting things accomplished faster.

And because we incorporate communications coaching, we make sure that everyone gets the help they need dealing with the painful feelings a divorce can bring.

The True Cost of Divorce

As mentioned previously, divorce costs much more than the attorney and court fees. There will probably be spousal support, child support, relocation costs, and possibly additional mental health support for members of the family as they work through this transition.

Divorce is expensive, both financially and emotionally.

So the question is: Why would you want to make this any harder than it has to be?

Do you want to pursue an expensive, emotionally devastating divorce that ends your marriage, destroys your family, and leaves no winners but the attorneys?

Or would you rather have a divorce that allows you to end your marriage and restructure your family? Allowing you to keep the relationships intact even as you and your ex go separate ways.

You have the most power to influence the outcome of your life and the lives of your kids at the very beginning of the divorce process – when you choose the path you walk.

If you’re considering divorce, you owe it to yourself, your spouse, and your children to honor the relationships you’ve developed. Contact Ogborne Law to learn more about collaborative divorce.