While parting ways may be the right thing in the long run, there's no getting around that awful short run: splitting-up sucks. That mourning, empty feeling has the singular ability to linger, and it doesn't even really care if you were the dumper or the dumpee. But aside from the emotional toll of de-coupling, there are other, more tangible losses. A break-up will inflict blows to your mind, heart, and ego, however the worst injuries from may still be ones to your wallet.
When to call a lawyer (and when not to)
How expensive a break-up is will depend on how far up the relationship ladder you have traveled. Divorces—especially contested divorces—can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and on occasion the loss of a major league baseball franchise or sizeable chunk of royalties from The Beatles' and Wings' back catalogues.
But it's no longer just men who end up leaving a marriage with only half their fortunes. As society has transformed over the decades, so has the balance of who pays when a marriage dissolves. According to survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 56% of their members have seen an increase in mothers paying child support over the past three years, while 47% have seen an increase in women paying alimony.
Still, divorce is an expensive endeavor no matter how it goes down. According to Forbes.com, the average cost of a divorce in the United States ranges from $15 to $30k, resulting in a $28 billion industry. The average divorce lawyer charges several hundreds of dollars per hour, and depending on how many assets the couple holds, qualified (and costly) CPAs may also be brought in by both sides.
There are less contentious (and therefore affordable) options like formal arbitration, which are intended to avoid a costly court battle and can cost between $10 and $15k. Another option is a mediated divorce, in which an impartial mediator who is trained in both the law and conflict resolution represents both parties will oversee the negotiations. These divorces can result in a price tag of around $5k.
But in this democratized Internet era, one can access information online and bypass the lawyers. For example, LegalZoom.com offers a "divorce package" for $299 that will help you to prepare and file documents yourself, tailored for your local jurisdiction. Or USLegalForms.com has packages beginning at only $49.95. The prices can vary depending on circumstances such as children or shared property.
If you go this route, and the split is uncontested, it may be worth your time to at least consult with a lawyer for an hour or two to make sure there are no loose, unforeseen ends.
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