Divorcing couples often feel “sticker shock” when they find out how much it can cost to end a marriage. These days, the cost of litigating a highly contested divorce involving children and property can easily reach six figures. This is one reason why many couples seek less expensive ways of ending their marriage, such as mediation or collaborative divorce. Which option is preferable depends on the couple’s particular circumstances.
The costs of a divorce can vary greatly depending on each couple’s situation, and so do the savings that result from pursuing alternatives to litigation. However, some estimates peg the average cost of a collaborative divorce somewhere between 25 percent and 50 percent of a litigated divorce, and the costs of mediation can be as low as 10 percent of what couples might spend in legal fees for a contested divorce.
Collaborative divorce is a private, out-of-court process where both sides commit to reaching a settlement without going to trial. In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has their own lawyer, plus they work together with a team of other professionals. Team members may include a neutral accountant to help gather and interpret financial information, a communication specialist to help prepare each spouse for difficult conversations and a child specialist who acts as the voice of the children during the process.
By taking the collaborative divorce approach, you and your ex do not need to go through the time consuming process of discovery. Moreover, you open up the opportunity for determining where your interests align rather than focusing on areas of disagreement and asking a judge to decide. Importantly, the parties and their attorneys enter a contract in which they agree to apply their best efforts to achieving an out-of-court settlement. If no settlement is reached, the attorneys are barred from representing the parties in a court proceeding.
Mediation is another option that many people choose to save money and avoid conflict. Both spouses work with a mediator — a neutral third party who facilitates discussions and helps you decide on key aspects of your divorce, like a child custody arrangement and child support payments. The end product is a settlement agreement that can be incorporated into the final judgment of divorce.
Deciding which of these options is right for you can be easier with the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney who can also advocate for your interests. Generally, collaborative divorce is more expensive than mediation but it offers more certainty of a mutually acceptable result, since the lawyers have a direct incentive to avoid going to trial. On the other hand, mediation allows informal negotiations in a relaxed setting, which often can result in a positive outcome.
The divorce attorneys at Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. in Tacoma would be happy to meet with you, hear about your situation and help you decide if collaborative divorce or mediation is right for you. Please call 253-272-5653 or contact us online to arrange a consultation.