Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Cost of Divorce

Walking out of a divorce settlement hearing, a client quipped "why are divorces so expensive?"  Without pause he added with a smile "Because they're worth it!"  Not too sure about that one--it's like asking if heart surgery was worth the pain?  Divorce may become unavoidable, but no one pays to play by choice.

Divorce comes at a high price and with an equally high price tag.  The emotional torment to the couple and their families can't be quantified.  A once loved and trusted partner is now the source of immeasurable torment. A happy and secure child sees his world torn asunder.  In the midst of this mayhem, a distraught spouse is expected to navigate the most significant financial transaction of her life.  Uncertainty reigns.  Now it's time to hire a lawyer?

So why do thirty percent of the population chose dissolve their marriages and why do they pay so dearly?  It's because a divorce is multiple claims rolled into one, each of which requires a separate resolution by parties who are in the midst of mental warfare.  If Fido nips a passing ankle, the issue is simple and the liability absolute.

When there's a certainty of recovery, (and insurance coverage) law firms take cases on a contingent fee basis, with no "up front" cost to the plaintiff.  State bar associations do not allow the same investment arrangements in divorce actions. 

"Divorce" loosely defines many complex issues above and beyond the dissolution of marriage.  It's never simple. Where will the children live?  What's the parenting plan going to look like?  How much child support will be paid?  Where will junior go to school?  Will spousal support be paid?  Medical insurance?  What's the value of the family business?  Who pays the attorney fees?  Is a financial expert necessary?  Are there hidden assets?  Abuse?  What about creditors?  The IRS?  The list is nearly endless. 

Family law is like a fingerprint--no two cases are alike. 

Family lawyers charge an hourly rate against a retainer which is used up at that per hour rate.  The price varies by experience and locality.  The State Bar of Michigan periodically publishes an Economics of the Law study based on surveys of practitioners sorted by practice and region.  This help a potential litigant get an idea of average costs per county.

With lawyers one gets what one pays for, so be careful when bargain shopping.  It's about communication during the process and a reasonable outcome.

Discount lawyers can cost dearly in the long run. 

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