How much will my divorce cost?
No one wants to get divorced. That’s not to say that couples don’t seek divorce. But when they marry, they almost always do so with the intention of staying together. Even when the relationship breaks down and divorce becomes the best or only option, most couples would still prefer the “happy ever after” fairytale to be real. It stands to reason then that the cost of divorce is not a budgeted cost. It is an unavoidable necessity to facilitate the legal end of what was once a loving partnership.
For many, the cost of divorce adds insult to injury. Assets are divided, a family home broken up, and on top of that there are legal fees to pay that seemingly benefit no one but the attorney. But it is important that the cost of divorce not be an obstacle to ending a relationship that is no longer productive, rewarding or nurturing. If it’s time to move on, we’ll help you do so as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible.
What does divorce cost?
The cost of divorce is entirely contingent on the type of divorce in question. Divorce can be either contested or uncontested. The difference between the two is significant, not only in cost but in time. Unless you and your spouse are completely and irrevocably alienated from each other, we would always encourage you to seek an uncontested divorce. What does this mean?
Contested vs. uncontested divorce
To paraphrase a decades-old advertisement, it is what it says on the tin. A contested divorce is one where the parties involved cannot reach agreement on key considerations, such as the division of major assets like property or child care and contact, are disputed. In this situation, the divorce goes to trial and the judge becomes the arbiter. However much you and your spouse disagree, do you really want a third party – particularly a stranger – making decisions about the rest of your lives? The costs can mount, as you will each need your own legal counsel and your divorce attorney may need to engage experts to vouch for certain aspects of your case, such as your capabilities as a parent. While it can be tempting to “go for the jugular”, contested divorces are almost always acrimonious and there are no winners, regardless of the final settlement. Where there are children involved, the process can be particularly traumatic for them.
Often the contested divorce does not make it to trial. Lawyers for both spouses continue to negotiate right up to trial date, and a settlement may be reached at the eleventh hour. But the trial preparation has been done, and a lot of billable hours will have been accrued.
An uncontested divorce is a much more peaceable course of action and one that leaves everyone’s dignity intact. In this scenario the two of you agree between yourselves how assets will be divided (bearing in mind the marital regime) and, if there are children, how they will be cared for. Normally a parenting plan is developed and this becomes part of your divorce settlement.
Cost of uncontested divorce
Because an uncontested divorce is straightforward, the costs can be contained. Although there are still variables, such as whether or not there are children of the marriage and contact arrangements to be negotiated, the cost will generally fall within a range, i.e. R1 000 to R20 000, if the couple resides and was married in South Africa. Costs will be higher for an international divorce. Once we have all the details we may be able to offer you a fixed rate, so you know from the start what your financial obligation will be.
Cost of contested divorce
By contrast, it is not possible to quote a standard cost range for a contested divorce. It depends entirely on how long the proceedings carry on, how complex the settlement is, how many experts are involved, etc. But suffice it to say that a contested divorce can take months or years and can run well into six figures. That is money that could instead be used to build a new life post-divorce or invest in the children’s future. Is it really worth it? And the literal cost is not the only price you will pay. The emotional cost is immeasurable.
In a contested divorce scenario, the attorney will charge by the hour, at a rate agreed with you in advance. You may be asked to pay a retainer up front. Your lawyer will deposit this in a trust account and deduct funds as they are used. You will receive a monthly statement of the lawyer’s time and the services of any experts consulted. If the case goes to trial, or is prepared for trial (even if a negotiated deal is ultimately reached pre-trial), the hours involved can be considerable.
A third way – mediated divorce
In between uncontested and contested divorce is mediated divorce. Mediation becomes a useful and recommended tool when couples are trying to achieve an uncontested divorce but simply cannot agree on matters. To avoid the fully litigated, or contested, divorce, a mediator will work with the couple to facilitate the divorce settlement. The mediator is a third party, not employed by the lawyer, and completely neutral. The mediation process takes place in confidence and allows the spouses to discuss and debate the terms and conditions of their divorce agreement in a safe environment, with an enabler skilled in helping them reach acceptable compromise. This is far preferable to a judge’s decree, in which the couple effectively sacrifices all control over the settlement terms. The mediator’s fees are part of the total cost.
Contact Divorce Attorney Cape Town for more information
Cape Town divorce lawyer Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc (SDLAW) is an expert in divorce and family law. We will advise you on the best route for your circumstances, but will always try to achieve an uncontested divorce where possible. We believe this allows for a more positive outcome for both parties – and any children involved – and lays the foundation for a healthier post-divorce relationship. If you would like to discuss your divorce in confidence, contact Cape Town Divorce Attorneys on 086 099 5146 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.