Cost of Divorce

Thursday, September 11, 2014 @ 1:57 PM

I've been wanting to write about the cost of divorce for quite a while because I think that people often see the price of couples counseling and decide that it's not worth it.  So let's take a look.
Based on currently advertised prices of DIY divorce kits available online and court filing fees in Texas, the cost of an uncontested divorce is somewhere between $700 and $1100.  Uncontested means that both parties are agreeing to divorce, and agree on how assets should be split and how custody will be handled (if applicable).  

Often these couples are able to be friendly to each other, but have lost the emotional attachment to each other or have experienced a loss or betrayal that feels insurmountable.   In my personal opinion, low cost divorce really does a disservice to people who are conflict avoidant because rather than having a strong incentive to stay and work things out, it's easier to just follow the base instinct to run away.  The sad reality is that for these couples counseling is often more expensive than divorce but might really be worth the effort as people have a tendency to recreate the same types of relationships until they address the issues underlying the desire to run away.

Contested divorces on the other hand can be very costly.  I looked at several online resources that provide divorce estimations.  My favorite is because it provides a very thorough breakdown of attorney and accountant fees for the various stages of a contested divorce.  The average costs listed on that site are $8,187-$132,600.  

Ouch!  And those are just the costs associated with the divorce itself.  That does not account for the added cost of an additional residence, the travel back and forth if there is shared custody of children, the loss of retirement savings if the funds are split as part of the divorce settlement.  Add to that the distress that children often feel because they implicitly believe that they need to choose one parent over the other, the dilemmas over which parent to invite to special occasions, the increased liklihood that your children and grandchildren will have failed marriages, etc.

Like a contested divorce, couples counseling costs vary depending on the severity of conflict and the number of issues being addressed.  The average cost of couples counseling is between $3,000 and $5,000 (this is the out-of-pocket price; sliding scales, insurance coverage, and other discount opportunities can significantly change these numbers).

Couples counseling is often seen as a last resort to saving a marriage, but it can be much more than that and in fact saving the marriage is not even necessarily a primary goal.   In general, these are the basic goals in couples counseling:
1.  Rebuilding emotional connection
2.  Rebuilding/strengthening the friendship system
3.  Reducing emotional reactivity
4.  Improving communication skills - including compromise

How many divorced couples do you know who are still angry and bitter towards their ex?  How many divorced couples do you know who use their children as weapons to get back at their ex?  Is that who you want to be?

Maybe the marriage is not salvagable, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to not carry around resentment and anger?  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to co-parent without screaming at each other?  And if you do end up divorcing, wouldn't it be nice to cut that bill down as much as possible by coming to agreements before introducing lawyers to the situation?

The choice is yours.