The true cost of divorce is hard to calculate as the financial repercussions are far reaching, but even if you just take the legal costs into account, the amount that leaves the bank accounts of both the wife and husband can be quite staggering.
The answer to the question: “Can I fit my divorce bill onto a credit card?” – is that yes you probably could – providing you avoid an adversarial divorce.
One divorced gentleman I interviewed explained it to me in a very tangible way. “Just write out a cheque for £25,000, and see how that feels”, he said calmly. “And then think about whether or not you want to talk to a mediator.”
His own wife had refused mediation, and the cost of his divorce rose much higher than what was covered by that cheque. Which is why he wishes now that his wife had been open to the mediation process, since it is not divorce itself that costs the earth – it’s the way it’s done. Adversarial divorce costs a great deal more than a mutually agreed settlement where the couple avoids battling it out in court.
Every New Year brings a bumper crop of divorce enquiries for law firms and online divorce providers in the traditional post-Xmas break up season, but the true cost of rushing into an adversarial divorce is still one of the best kept secrets in town.
I estimate the difference in cost to be £65,000 – money which could be better spent on university fees for the children or other financial necessities.
But how can that cost difference be calculated?
I added up the cost range of an adversarial divorce by taking the average cost of a London divorce from a good source: Novitas launched a fund in 2012 to help cover the rising cost of divorces and provide an annual return of 8 per scent for investors. Novitas calculated that the average cost in London just to pay the solicitors is £40,000 for each set of solicitors fees – so that’s £80,000 for the couple in legal fees alone.
I then looked at the collaborative divorce costs of journalist Martha Roberts who wrote about her ‘happy divorce’ in the Daily Mail, of £15,000 total – which is much more than the mazimum of £1,500 that a collaborative divorce can more usually cost, as it all depends on how complex the financial arrangements are and how many sessions it takes for the couple to agree on a settlement. But I chose this higher figure as I wanted to give adversarial divorce a fair trial – and even on this basis the difference in cost is still huge – £65,000 difference.
Mediation is much less expensive still, as no lawyers need to be present at the meetings, and costs are usually between £500 and £3,000 for a mediated divorce.
Adversarial divorce costs £65,000 more than staying out of court
Let’s do the maths – and see what is the financial advantage of staying out of the divorce courts: There are better ways to travel this journey that will cost you less is money and stress
‘Conventional’ Adversarial Package
(We DON’T recommend this one)
Alternative, stay-out-of-court Package
(We think this is a much better choice)
Don’t just look at the numbers
But just looking at the numbers is not giving a realistic view of the situation. Mediation and Collaborative Law can seem tougher to couples who don’t want to sit in the same room with each other, and even knowing the harm done to their children if they become adversarial is not always enough to stop them going down that route. People need to be realistic and get the necessary support and help to navigate a stay-out-of-court journey.
What kind of support? I would suggest that it can be as simple as dealing with depression and anger by joining a gym or getting a personal trainer; working with a life coach or parenting expert; investigating start up business opportunities (to reduce the fear of lack of income post-divorce); working with a financial planner to create a detailed and accurate financial plan for both parents including who will cover university fees, and how much they can afford to spend on cars and holidays over the ensuing years, without running out of money. None of these are the job of a traditional divorce lawyer.
It may sound like a lot of different experts compared to just using two adversarial lawyers – but think of it this way. If you pay to use mediation plus a whole host of useful experts who will help you to complete the process successfully, then you will have learned and gained a great deal from going through the process, and still saved yourself at least £65,000 in lawyers fees.
Free advice to avoid adversarial divorce are available to any couples who want to understand how to navigate a stay-out-of-court divorce via the Divorce First Aid Kit and other resources accessed via www.AlternativeDivorceDirectory.co.uk.