How To Make Your Divorce As Expensive As Humanly Possible

Shhh... Your lawyer probably doesn't want you to know this.

woman in sunglasses throwing out money Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

During the years I spent mediating settlement agreements between soon-to-be-ex husbands and wives, I heard from countless people who would have loved to immediately head to their local family law court to initiate proceedings for getting a divorce if not for their fear that doing so would lead them to complete financial ruin.

I won’t sugar coat it. The amount of money it takes to support two households after getting divorced is always going to be higher than the amount it takes to support the one household of an intact family during a marriage.


That simply doesn’t mean it isn’t doable, and it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

How much does it cost to get divorced?

The answer to that varies by state and circumstance, of course, but to give you an idea, the average cost of a divorce in California has been recently estimated to be $95,000 total — $45,000 per spouse. In Los Angeles County, the average length of a litigated divorce process from beginning to end (i.e., a traditional, courtroom-based with an attorney representing each spouse) is three to four years.

Those statistics are not only insane, they are entirely unnecessary.

And yet, time after time I would try to explain this to people who would reliably say in response, “I hear you, but I just want to make sure I get what I am entitled to. I don’t trust my spouse if we mediate.”


RELATED: Divorce Lawyer Reveals The Craziest Divorce Case She Ever Experienced

I am still unclear as to why anyone trusts an attorney they have never met or an overwhelmed court system in which they are no more than another case number not to mess with them more than they would their still-current spouse, who has a mutual interest in making sure that both of you (and your children, if you have them) all stay afloat after the divorce papers are filed, signed and stamped.

Alas, since many people remain committed to fighting the good fight, I'd like to offer these 12 helpful tips for how to make sure your divorce is as lengthy, draining, and expensive as humanly possible.


(AKA, here are 12 common and totally unnecessary reasons getting a divorce costs so much time and money!)

How to Make Your Divorce as Expensive as Possible

1. Keep fighting for what is “fair.”

Forget the fact that fair is a four-letter word starting with an "F." And so what if the family law code is pretty widely open to interpretation. You want what you are "entitled" to and nothing less, even if that amount ends up not quite covering the bill for your attorney's fees.


RELATED: 7 Extremely Brave Ways To Be The Bigger Person In Your Divorce

2. No matter how comfortable you feel with a settlement proposal, refuse to accept it until your attorney says you should.

After all, your attorney only wants what's best for you and your kids. In fact, he/she doesn't care if you have to spend every penny you ever made fighting for what's right, because after all, you should get what you deserve.


3. Demand that your ex run any and all parenting decisions by you until the children are past the age of 18.

You weren't exactly experts at making parenting choices together during your marriage. In fact, you probably fought quite a bit about issues related to the kids, and these arguments may even have contributed to your split. It only makes sense that the two of you will see eye-to-eye on everything and enjoy engaging in regular conversations with each other now that you're no longer a couple... right?

4. Insist that your ex undergo a vocational evaluation.

You want to be sure you pay the least amount of child support and spousal support (i.e., alimony) possible for the shortest duration of time allowed, of course. And I'm sure the vocational testing you took during high school is what miraculously pointed you in the direction of your chosen professional career. I mean, that's what they did for all of us, no?

Never mind the fact that these assessments can cost somewhere around $3,500 - $7,000 on a good day. What's money when there's a principle involved?


RELATED: Why Getting A Divorce Does Not Make You A Failure

5. Do your best to ensure all verbal agreements you believe you and your ex made during your marriage are honored.

Who even cares how the court might rule on any of the issues at hand. He/she promised! Of course, you both also promised something along the lines of "'Til death do us part," but meh. Semantics.

6. Refuse to settle on any aspect of your divorce agreements until your ex acknowledges your value, position, opinion, rights, etc.

You finally know your worth and you've waited long enough for this person you once at least thought you loved to come to know the same thing. So what if they couldn't even bring themselves to buy you a Hallmark card thanking you for all of the wonderful things you contribute to the world and their life on pretty much any single one of your last eight birthdays or anniversaries. This is divorce! The time is now or never.

I'm thinking probably never, but IDK.


7. Withhold information requested by your spouse until he or she agrees to do x, y, or z.

I feel pretty confident saying that during your married years together, neither of you probably tried withholding anything from the other as a way to manipulate control bring them into compliance help them see the value of your positions or requests. So why not give that technique the good old college try now?

8. Every now and then, attempt to “negotiate” with your spouse directly in order to save time and money.

It's not like one of the most widely cited reasons people for give for getting a divorce is trouble communicating, especially in regard to things like budgeting, calendaring, and small but vital everyday decision making.

Oh, wait. Never mind. That actually IS one of the most common reasons people get divorced. But you guys are different. I know it.

RELATED: 19 Truths About Divorce That Will Make You Feel Better


9. Assume that your spouse must be hiding money somewhere.

And with this certainly in mind, hire a forensic accountant to identify the exact origin of every penny earned and spent by each of you, personally and professionally, over the course of your marriage. Somewhere around six months and $50,000 later, I'm sure you'll have a solid explanation for that $500 that went missing mysteriously during your second year of marriage.

10. Engage a child custody evaluator to decide what is in the best interests of your children.

This one is my own personal favorite, especially since this group of “professionals” — who typically charge somewhere in the vicinity of $25,000 minimum for a full custody evalution, not including time spent being deposed or called as a witness at a hearing — is so well known for it’s ethical procedures, invulnerability to bias, and pristine personal backgrounds.

Or not.



11. Stay firmly entrenched in a belief or expectation of what you should get in your settlement.

This works particularly well when based on a friend’s divorce, an article you just read, or a support calculator you found online.


No, really.

12. Decide that you just want to let the judge decide everything for you.

Forget the fact that in a large number of cases these days, judges simply say something scary enough that it will convince both spouses to step back out into the hallway and come up with a settlement agreement on the fly anyway, resulting in less than 5 percent of all cases ever being ruled on with a direct order from a judge.

Why would you start considering yourself the person most capable of knowing which decisions are best for you at this moment when you're spreading your wings to take on all those exciting opportunities waiting for you on the other side of your signed and stamped divorce papers?



RELATED: 10 Ways Dating After Divorce Is Exactly Like High School

Executive Editor Arianna Jeret, MA/MSW, is a writer, former family law mediator, and recognized expert on relationships and conflict resolution. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, MSN, Bustle, Parents and more.