By Divorce.com staff
Updated Mar 07, 2023
There are many ways to get a divorce, and even couples that don’t usually get along would prefer to choose the path of least resistance. For many people, a mediated divorce is an excellent decision.
Mediation can remove a lot of stress from the divorce process, including financial stress. If you’re planning to work with a mediator, here’s how to budget for your divorce.
How Much Does the Average Divorce Cost?
The divorce industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Divorce in the United States usually costs about $10,000, but costs can be as high as $20,000 in some cases. Self-managed divorce methods can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, which is a stark difference. Many people choose to go the DIY route when possible.
How Is Divorce Money Spent?
If you’re going to be spending a pretty penny on your divorce, you need to know where that money is going. Understanding how much money you’re spending on services can help you set and follow an appropriate budget.
Lawyers are the largest part of your divorce budget. Lawyers can cost anywhere between $150 to $500 an hour. If your divorce gets messy, it could take over a year.
During that time, you’ll be paying your lawyer’s hourly rate when they’re working on your case. This can easily surpass $10,000 before you know it. At $150 an hour, $10,000 is only 66 hours of your lawyer’s time.
Filing fees for your divorce paperwork will vary from county to county. Every court sets its own fees. You usually won’t pay more than $200 as a one-time fee for filing. If you’re facing financial hardship, some courts will allow you to apply for a waiver that eliminates your filing fee.
Many people don’t think about childcare arrangements during their divorce, but you may have to pay someone to watch your child. If you and your spouse are sitting down to discuss your divorce, working with lawyers, or attending a court date, it isn’t a good idea to allow your children to witness these emotionally intense moments.
If your children are teenagers, it’s easy to send them out of the house for a little while. They’ll happily grab lunch with their friends or attend after-school activities. If your children are younger, you may need to hire a sitter or enroll them in a program away from your home so you’ll have the space to work through your issues in private.
Time Off Work
If you need to attend court or meet with a lawyer, you’ll likely be scheduled to do so during work hours. This means taking time off work. When you take time off work, your paycheck will be smaller.
When your paycheck is smaller, your household budget may change. Your divorce is already putting a significant strain on your finances. How will you be able to meet your expenses with greater expenses and a smaller paycheck?
You may need to take out a loan or accrue new debts as a direct result of your divorce. This will cost you in the long run if you aren’t financially comfortable enough to let a substantial amount of money slip down the drain.
The Long-Term Financial Effects of Divorce
Many people experience significant debt following a divorce. It may be years before you’re back on your feet. A divorce may also give you new financial obligations, like child support or spousal support payments. You may wind up with less money and two households to support.
If you’ve spent your savings on a costly divorce, you’ll have a difficult time meeting your monetary responsibilities.
Most people need a 30% increase in their income following a divorce just to become solvent. This could mean finding a better job, a second job, or even returning to school to increase your earning potential. You may need to create a structured debt repayment plan to prevent the negative financial impact of divorce from damaging your financial future.
How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?
Divorce mediation is a strategy that couples use when they want to work toward an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce doesn’t require the use of lawyers, and you won’t need a court trial for your divorce. This can reduce the stress, time, and expense of your divorce dramatically.
When you choose mediation, you only need to pay your local court’s filing fee, paperwork preparation fees, and the hourly rate for your mediator. How much you pay will depend on how many hours of mediation you need to reach a satisfactory settlement with your spouse.
You and your spouse will both use the same mediator, which means you can split the costs. Mediators charge between $100 and $500 per hour. If you only need three hours of mediation, you’ll be splitting a maximum of $1,500 between the two of you. This is substantially less expensive than the cost of working with a lawyer to complete your divorce.
Working With Your Mediation Budget Wisely
If cost is a factor, you need to use your mediation budget wisely. You’re usually charged by the hour for mediation sessions, with the first session usually being a little less expensive than each future session. This is because your mediator needs time to hear the details of your situation so they can help. You can make the most of your full-priced hours by preparing for mediation.
Speak Before You Go to Mediation
Don’t head straight for mediation the moment you decide to get divorced. Speak to your spouse first. Talk about all the property you need to divide, how you’d like to handle child custody, and how you feel about child support. You may already agree on a lot of important decisions. If you agree, you don’t need to discuss those issues in mediation.
Make a list of the issues where you don’t agree, or you aren’t sure what to do. Those are the only issues relevant to your meditation. Prepare to explain concisely how each of you feels about these issues. That’s all your mediator needs to find a starting point for communication.
Stay on Track During Your Sessions
When you’re discussing issues relevant to your divorce, it may bring up some feelings. You may want to reminisce on positive moments or address pain points. You can have those conversations privately and on your own time. They aren’t useful for your mediator, and they’ll take up valuable paid time.
Although something about the process of mediation may feel therapeutic, your mediator isn’t a therapist. Mediations are professionals with a wealth of legal knowledge. They’ve experienced their fair share of divorcing couples and witnessed their emotional reactions, but helping you work through your emotions isn’t a part of their job description.
Make a deal with your spouse. If one of you starts to go off track, remind them to put a pin in that idea. If you have something important to discuss that isn’t directly relevant to your mediation, you can always talk about it after your mediation session.
Don’t dismiss each other’s feelings or ideas, which will increase tension in the situation. Put those feelings or ideas on hold for after your session.
Understand When to Make Concessions
The purpose of mediation is to reach compromises, not to find a hill to die on. If you refuse to see other points of view, entertain solutions, or reach compromises, that defeats the point of mediation. You can always use a lawyer for an arbitration process if mediation isn’t giving you the answers you want, but going that route will dramatically change your budget.
You need to accept the fact that you probably won’t get everything you want out of your divorce settlement. It only matters that your settlement is completed equitably. One person can’t have everything unless a prenuptial agreement specifies that it belongs to them or it was purchased prior to marriage. You’re only entitled to roughly half of the property and assets that entered your lives after you were married.
You need to be willing to give a little to satisfy your spouse. Your mediator can explain alternative solutions to you. Keep an open mind. It’s okay to pick a few important things and speak your case, but you also need to be willing to listen to what your spouse wants.
Are You Ready to Begin Divorce Mediation?
In summation, mediation sessions can be extremely helpful for couples who want to have an amicable divorce. Typically, your mediator will spend the first session listening to the issues you’d like to resolve and determining your level of disagreement.
Once you’ve reached your important conclusions, your mediator can help you prepare the settlement document you need to file for an uncontested divorce. You may only be a few weeks away from a peaceful divorce.