In a litigated divorce in Arizona can cost as much as a new car for each party – sometimes as much as a 2011 Ferrari. It is not unusual to spend over $10,000.00 on attorney’s fees alone during the first six months of litigation. Attorneys charge an average of $250.00 to $350.00 per hour and charge for everything from phone calls, to drafting letters and pleadings to Court appearances.
Many litigated cases also require experts. Experts may include custody evaluators, mental health experts, business evaluators, real estate appraisers and forensic accountants. One party may also pay a portion of the other party’s attorney’s and expert fees, if the Court find that such an award is appropriate based on a disparity in income between the parties or the reasonableness of the parties’ positions. Costs in a divorce, on top of legal and expert fees, could include deposition transcripts, legal research, copies, faxes, deliveries, witness fees, subpoenas, and many other costs. There are also courts filing fees.
A contested divorce may look like this:
Attorney’s Fees $20,000.00 $20,000.00
Custody Evaluator $4,000.00 $4,000.00
Business Appraiser $15,000.00
Forensic Accountant $5,000.00
Costs $1,500.00 $1,500.00
Combined expenses: $71,000.00
Most people can find something better to do with that kind of money – even if it is just putting the money away for children’s college education or retirement.
There is an alternative to the contested divorce, even in the most difficult of cases: mediation. In mediation, the parties jointly select a neutral party (the mediator) to help them resolve all issues and submit all paperwork to the Court. While the parties may still need to employ an expert to, for example, value a piece of property, the parties share that cost. Further, the experts’ fees are much more affordable because they do not have to prepare formal reports or testify in court.
An average mediated divorce can cost under $2,000.00, which includes the $577.00 in Court filing fees. Even parties who still want to utilize attorneys in the mediation process end up spending a fraction of the amount that they would have spent for a litigated case. The attorney only has to offer advice and not file documents, write letters or appear in Court.
Many people who launch into a litigated case probably do so because they do not know about the many benefits of the mediation option (lower cost, less time consuming, more certainty, less stress, confidentiality…). Others may be drawn to litigation because they are angry, and litigation seems to fit that emotional need. However, mediation is often more cathartic and healing than hiring someone to fight for you, as you actually get a chance to be heard. Litigation serves to exacerbate and drag out bad feelings. Participants then have the added financial burden of the divorce’s fees and costs.
Both mediation and litigation will result in your divorce. The question is how much time, money and stress do you want to put into the process?
Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.
Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC
8160 E. Butherus Dr., Suite #7
Scottsdale, AZ 85260