Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce
As a divorce attorney, I have noticed that my prospective clients have many of same questions.
Here are the most common questions, along with my answers.
It varies, but the average divorce takes six to eight months. A divorce that can be processed administratively (often when the parties do not have children or much in the way of assets) may take as little as two weeks. A protracted divorce, due to either conflict (over, say, custody), or a complicated fact scenario (e.g., businesses that need to be valued or nonmarital assets that have to be traced), can take more than a year.
The cost of divorce also varies. It has been estimated that average divorce costs between $15,000-$20,000. (Huffington Post: How Much Does the Average Divorce Really Cost by GalTime) The two factors that drive up the cost of divorce are the level of conflict between the parties, as well the existence of any complicated issues.
The least expensive divorces are those in which the couple agrees on all the resolution of all issues, and jointly submits the paperwork to the court for filing. This kind of divorce can cost as little as the parties’ time to fill out the paperwork and the court filing fee.
The most expensive divorces are those with tremendous conflict between the parties (which plays out in the form of many issues being contested) or divorces that involve complicated issues (e.g., business valuations, nonmarital claims, spousal maintenance (alimony) issues, or high net worth marital estates), which simply take time (and money) to work through.
Most people come to an agreement. Approximately 95% of divorces are ultimately resolved by the couple, some sooner than later. If you and your spouse can’t agree how to resolve certain issues, then these issues will be decided by a judicial officer assigned to your case.
You may not need an attorney if you and your spouse:
- don’t have children (and thus, no custody, parenting time or child support issues),
- do have similar incomes. If you have similar incomes, then spousal maintenance (alimony) is probably not an issue.
- do agree as to how to divide up your assets and liabilities. And, if you and your spouse have come up with a way to divide up the assets and liabilities, which seems fair to both of you, then court will probably approve of your agreement.
That said, it never hurts to consult with an attorney, even if it’s just to review a deal that you and your spouse have fleshed out. Often, an attorney will give a free initial consultation, so you may not be out any money in attorney’s fees to get a professional opinion about your divorce settlement (before you sign off on it).
You probably need an attorney, however, if you have
- conflicted or complicated issues (i.e., spousal maintenance (alimony), nonmarital assets, businesses, domestic abuse, special-needs children, etc.),
- a sizeable difference in incomes, or
- are simply are not confident either with your spouse’s honesty or with being your own attorney.
This also depends!
Most divorce attorneys bill by the hourly, and hourly rates vary dramatically from $150-$750 per hour. Many factors influence the amount of the hourly rate, including, experience and location of the attorney’s practice. An attorney located in New York, with twenty-five years of family law practice under her belt, will likely charge more than a recent law school graduate with a general practice in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Learn all about initial divorce consultations: how to prepare for them, what to expect, and more in my full blog post on the topic. Also, download a free initial consultation kit on the page. The kit includes questions to ask an attorney and an excerpt from my book.
How do I find an attorney? Not just any attorney. An attorney I can trust. One with enough experience. An attorney that is a good fit for my personality and my legal needs.
Click below to download a free excerpt from my divorce handbook (found on Amazon) on this topic and print a worksheet that will help you whittle down your attorney options so you can select the one that is right for you by clicking the link below:
Ideally, both spouses approach this issue from the same vantage point, i.e., what is best for the kids. Here’s the 3 things kids must know:
- Kids need to know they’re loved.
- They need to know that they did not cause the divorce.
- And they need to know when they’re going to get to spend time with each of you.
And that’s about it.
No. The majority of states in the U.S. are no fault in nature, which means that you don’t have to prove that your marriage is irretrievably broken or why you need a divorce. Even if one person thinks the marriage is done, the marriage will be dissolved legally. You don’t need consent of the other spouse to secure a divorce.
Generally not. Most courts have a difficult enough time dealing with the present issues (i.e., custody, parenting time, alimony), and have little interest going back to even the score between the parties historically. Some states, however, allow for this. Beware, however. You can go down the road of trying to exact a pound of flesh, but that pound of flesh may be your own.