Divorce Cost — Not Just Dollars And Cents

When a couple marries, they are making a commitment to one another. Love is driving the bus and the vows are heartfelt. Making a commitment to share lives until “death do you part” is done so willingly and with good intentions.

The reality is that about half of couples saying “I do” will end their marriage with divorce. If marrying for a second or third time, those statics rise considerably. Approximately another 15 percent for a second marriage, and an astounding 25 percent increase for couples taking the plunge for a third time.

If only it was as simple as agreeing to part ways, resuming the mantles as single people and putting aside the commitments made. But it’s not easy. Divorce has many costs, both monetary and emotional. Many of these costs a couple may not realize exist while in the midst of the ordeal of splitting up.

The heartbreak is real, regardless of how many times one takes the trip to the altar. When two people marry, it is with the idea that their happiness is complete and will never end, no matter what pitfalls they encounter. Humans do believe in happily-ever-after and the idea of soulmates is strongly ingrained in our psyches.

If you’re facing divorce, the decision to end your marriage will be one of the hardest, most emotional in your life. You will experience the pain of loss, the grieving process will be genuine. But being prepared can help you move through the cycles of anger, pain, hurt, betrayal, even vengeance. In an article for Mediate.com, Psychological and Emotional Aspects of Divorce, Kathleen O’Connell Corcoran discusses the emotional stages of divorce.

“A common response to divorce is to seek vengeance. When parties put their focus on getting even, there is an equal amount of energy expended on being blameless. What’s true is that blaming and fault finding are not necessary or really helpful.”

It’s easy to understand why going through the process of divorce is like walking through a minefield. Yet, it’s the emotion that can make the financial cost of divorce staggering. The true cost of getting a divorce can be hard to pin down, as each couple has their own set of issues to resolve. Then there are the unforeseen costs that may not have been considered, like counseling, living separately, health issues, work lost, etc.

The typical divorce cost can range from a few hundred dollars for the DIY divorce, to tens of thousands of dollars for a litigated divorce. Unfortunately, the more contentious the divorce, the higher the cost. It’s not uncommon for a couple to spend thousands on attorney’s fees fighting over who gets what, and the fees often outweigh the value of the items they are bickering over. Even pets are drawn into custody battles.

The final cost of divorce will be determined by you and your ex. Can you sit down together and work out a reasonable division of assets and debts? Are you cooperating as parents to determine child custody and child support? Are you working to set up a budget to run two separate households? Have you resolved a consistent schedule for visitation and who does what when, where and how?

If possible, working through a divorce amicably is a win/win for everyone. Children are affected by contentious divorces … for life. The idea of putting your children’s best interests at the heart of the matter is important. But it’s not easy. Are you ready to act like adults and do right by your children? Can you put aside your emotions and be the co-parents you need to be to raise your children cooperatively? Can you create separate but loving and safe family environments?

The old adage “you get what you pay for” may be something to keep in mind when you “shop” for a divorce. Proceeding in a collaborative manner, such as through mediation, can save you money over a costly litigated process, but don’t forget that spending a little bit now to reach a mutually beneficial settlement will reap long-term benefits.

Too often couples balk at even reasonable costs to bring an end to their marriage in an amicable and healthy way. Yet, when it comes to the nuptials, there is no limit to the expense people are willing to pay for creating that “perfect day.” By far, the cost of weddings outweigh the cost of divorce. You would think the “rest of your life” would be more important than one “perfect day.”

Still, as humans we are fallible, if not frail, beings. But we are also resolute and capable of learning from our mistakes. In this day and age marriage may not be absolute, but divorce doesn’t have to leave you emotionally and financially bankrupt. The key is knowing what to expect and planning ahead.