September 14, 2017

Monthly Misconception for September- “Substantial Assets or Income Means Substantial Legal Fees”

No it doesn’t.

Many people considering divorce assume that if they are financially well off their legal fees will be high and their divorce will be complicated and time consuming.  Just as many assume that because they have few assets and live month to month financially,  their  divorce will be completed quickly with minimal cost.

Both both assumptions are incorrect.  Here’s why.

There are numerous factors affecting how much a couple will incur in legal fees in order to be divorced.   And financial wealth isn’t necessarily the most important factor.  These same factors typically impact the duration of the divorce process and include:

1.  The desire of both spouses to divorce in a reasonable and cost effective manner.  For example, are both spouses committed to limiting the negative aspects of divorce or does at least one want to use the divorce as a way to punish, abuse, bankrupt or  humiliate the other?

2.  The ability of both spouses to divorce in a reasonable, rationale and cost effective manner.  Sometimes even well persons with the best intentions have difficulty acting reasonably  and making good rationale decisions due to a cognitive weakness, mental or emotional illness or addiction.  Other times otherwise rationale good people act poorly in a divorce because they are so afraid of what their post divorce future might look like.

3.  The complexity of the facts.  For example, what is the primary source of family income –  salaried W-2 jobs or sales positions for which compensation is mostly commission based and which varies drastically year to year.  Is it difficult to identify or value certain assets or does one spouse have an unpredictable medical issue?

4.  The nature of the conflict.  What are the primary issues in dispute?  For example, parenting and custody disputes can be extremely expensive and take years to resolve whether a family is wealthy, middle class or just getting by financially.  And typically resolving alimony is more challenging than dividing property.

5.  Unpredictability of applicable law.  There is law in Connecticut regarding division of assets and debts and alimony.  But the law on its face doesn’t determine exactly how  property must be allocated between the spouses or the amount or duration of alimony in any given divorce.  Unpredictability can lead to increased conflict and limit compromise.

6.  Attractiveness of financial options.  Often, wealthier couples have a variety of financial options, several of which will allow them to continue relatively positive lifestyles post divorce.  On the other  hand, couples who are struggling financially while married, may have limited or no attractive financial options upon divorce. Simply put, it is sometimes easier to divide large bank accounts between two spouses than deal with a house in foreclosure.

7.  Method of divorce.  The couple’s choice of divorce method – litigation, collaboration, mediation, arbitration, self representation, other – can have a great influence on the legal fees incurred and length of the divorce process.

The bottom line is that it is difficult to predict with any certainty how much a divorce will cost or how long it will take to complete the process.  But in my experience with the right professionals providing guidance,  a couple who is sincerely committed is  divorcing in an effective, efficient and cost effective manner can successfully do so. 

Feel free to contact me via email,, or telephone, 203-271-3888, if you’d like to explore this important divorce topic.  Take control of your own divorce experience.

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