We all know divorces are not uncommon in the U.S.
Some of the most public splits over the years have included those of celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, and most recently, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner.
But not everyone has the financial stability of a movie star. And divorces don’t come cheap.
An uncontested divorce can cost between $1,500 and $5,500 on average, while a contested one can set you back anywhere from $40,000 to $140,000, according to Elizabeth Douglas, founding attorney and CEO of Douglas Family Law in New York. If the case goes to trial, Douglas said, the cost can be even higher.
“The more complex it is, the more hours that are required: hours by the lawyers, hours by the appraisers, the business evaluators, the crypto hunters, the forensics, the forensic accountants, the forensic psychologists, whatever it may be,” she added.
Divorce entails big financial, life changes
With divorce comes a lot of life changes — significant ones.
Typically that means one home turning into two, and the same goes for the electricity, cable, internet, grocery bills and cars, in addition to rent or a mortgage. There’s also the cost of moving, buying new furniture, setting up those different utilities accounts, doing your taxes independently, separating your health insurance and possibly selling the shared home or homes. And that’s just the beginning.
This major life change might cause time lost at work, the need for therapy and, if there are children involved, more child care. Speaking of children, there can also be custody to figure out.
John Norman worked in law enforcement for more than 20 years and was retired in 2019 when he separated from his now ex-wife. They lived in Ithaca, New York.
“We went through a completely unnecessary custody battle; I had to hire an expert witness,” Norman said. “I was without my kids for a year.”
Norman estimates this life event cost him between $172,799 and $191,000. He still owes $120,929 and $39,747 of that is credit card debt.
Meanwhile, money hadn’t been a problem for him and his family prior to the divorce. “We had extra money,” he said. “We bought a boat for the kids … then there was this custody battle and it just drained all of my accounts.”
How to hold down divorce costs
While it might not be easy to prevent a divorce, it’s certainly a lot easier to prevent a divorce from being costly and putting a significant financial burden on your family.
Prenups are one option — Douglas even believes they’re romantic. “You get to protect someone while you still love them, before you hate them,” she said. “And you get to divide and save money for both of you early on.”
“The best piece of advice I can give anybody is, you’re never going to negotiate a more favorable divorce for both parties than when you love each other,” Norman added.
The reality is that while it might be scary to rip off the bandage and get divorced, you don’t have to stay married to someone just because you don’t have the money to split up. Everyone has options, and there are people, organizations and resources that can help.
Watch the video above to learn how you can prevent a costly divorce.