Economy, Economy, Economy

In 1992, James Carville coined the phrase, ‘It’s the economy, stupid,’ which many people credit for winning Bill Clinton the White House. Now, divorce certainly involves a lot more than cost and expense, but let’s be honest, cost and expense are two major factors in calculating the efficiency, the effectiveness, and the equity of any process, including divorce.

So, for the moment, we will set aside the issues of time spent, stress avoided, regard ruined, feelings crushed, children compromised, and unfairness endured; and just focus on the costs and economics of divorce.

According to Forbes magazine (How Much does a Divorce Cost in 2023, by Chauncy Crail, Edited by Mike Cetera, Forbes Advisor), the average cost of a simple divorce is between $15,000.00 and $20,000.00, while for a divorce involving “disagreements around issues such as property distribution or child custody”, the process can be significantly more expensive, “often running up tabs well over $100,000.00”.

Nolo, a web-based company whose mission is to help consumers find answers to everyday legal and business questions, conducted a national survey and finds that average attorney’s fees for a lawyer who handled the entire case was $11,300.00, per person, or $22,600.00 for both spouses; but where there were substantial disagreements over things such as child custody, child support, spousal support, or division of property and debts, the average costs jumped to $23,300.00, per person, or $46,600.00, for both spouses. (, How Much will my Divorce Cost?, by E.A. Gjelten, Legal Editor.)

Looking at both of these surveys, it is important to keep in mind that they are based on national surveys, and not on the actual costs in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, where, as with most things, costs are considerably higher.

The cost of a Mediation Session, as charged by our company, and comparable to most other like professional services, is $650.00 for a ninety-minute session. It is quite rare for the entire mediation process to take more than five sessions. Meaning the cost is $3250.00. Full disclosure – Mediation involves a drafting fee to compile the agreement of the parties, and a processing fee to shepherd the agreement through the state system to a final divorce. The price for this generally ranges between $1500.00 and $2500.00. Add in state filing fees of $335.00.

We are talking here about economics, so the ‘bottom line’ is $46,000.00 to $100,000.00 for a contested divorce in the courts, or $5075.00 for a contested divorce in mediation.

There are a lot more issues to consider when choosing whether or not to mediate, and we will discuss those in other posts on this blog; but no question, cost is one of the issues to consider. So, as James Carville said, and as Bill Clinton won the White House with: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

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