Special to the Recorder
Family law attorneys are often asked how much a divorce costs. Here are some of the “costs” that often get overlooked when a person is considering ending a marriage.
Emotional and spiritual cost: Number one is the emotional cost – one that typically gets left out by many attorneys and does not get discussed with clients. I feel it’s important, however, for women to be honest with themselves on the emotional cost of staying in a bad relationship.
Are you in a situation where you have no intimacy or communication? Are you just a roommate? Have you considered the emotional cost to your well-being, your self-esteem, your femininity, your humanity? We are all relational beings, and if you are sharing a home with somebody you may be missing out on that relationship piece at a very high cost to yourself emotionally. It’s worse than living alone because you’re living with somebody who you do not speak with, who does not respect you, and who you’re going to grow to resent if you don’t already.
At the end of the day, we only have so many days on this planet, so when it comes to money, we can always get more money, make more money. But money is not the key to spiritual and emotional health and happiness. I say look at the emotional cost first, that you are really suffering by staying in a relationship that is not serving you. It could be harmful to you and shortening your life.
Financial cost: I started with the emotional cost because I think it helps women put into perspective what they truly value in life. If you are thinking, “I need the money for my children,” I suggest you consider the real value your children get from you and what they need from you. I think your children would rather have you around and you would rather be around as a happy, functioning human being for many years to come versus what’s in the pocketbook.
Financially, the assets will be divided. Now if it’s a long-term marriage and everything’s marital, that’s very straightforward as far as the division. Depending on whether your state is a separate property state (like Florida) or a community property state, the analysis will differ on the distribution of assets. The general concepts are the same: Assets will be classified as either marital or non-marital, and even non-marital assets can have a marital component that require an analysis.
Alimony or spousal support is available in most states; the evaluation is how much and for how long? That requires a good legal analysis and an understanding of the client’s goals, dreams and desires for their future so that you attorney can properly prepare that alimony case.
Legal cost: Everybody always wants to know, “What is this going to cost? This is too expensive.” The analysis I recommend people consider is, compared to what? Compared to the rest of your life? Compared to your financial independence and freedom? What is too expensive? Now, you should be getting as much value as you’re paying for, if not more. You should have a great relationship with your attorney, have a sense of trust, and be able to voice concerns, complaints and discuss your goals freely. The best attorneys give you all the options, weigh the risks, and provide you with a strategy, not just show up and argue. There needs to be a strategy throughout the divorce – based on your goals and what you are entitled to by law – that your attorney shares and communicates with you throughout the process.
Those are the top three initial concerns regarding the cost of divorce. I recommend you look at those and start with the emotional, physical and spiritual. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward and regressing. That is going to shorten your life and the quality of any other relationships you try to have.
Heather Quick is the founder and CEO of The Quick Law Group, a Jacksonville firm that specializes in divorce and family law for women.