3 Things to Consider Before Divorce: 1. The Financial Picture In part 1 of this 3 part series, Lynne discusses the financial pitfalls if a couple decides to divorce. BY LYNNE Z. GOLD-BIKIN
The cost of divorce isn't just the loss of time, memory and dreams; it's also the loss of a lot of money.
Before you decide to divorce, consider if working on the marriage is cheaper than the process in which you are going to venture. Legal fees are certainly daunting and no divorce is going to be filed, negotiated and completed in less than 20 hours of legal time. Multiply this by your lawyer’s hourly rate and you are already talking about real money.
Let’s start at the beginning:
1. If there is a residence as part of the marital assets, unless there is an agreement as to its value, it will have to be appraised—another cost.
2. If there are valuable tangibles such as oriental rugs, collections or artwork and there is no agreement as to their value, then an appraisal will be necessary.
3. If there is a defined benefit pension in the "pot," an actuary will need to evaluate its current value. A business interest valuation or a medical practice evaluation can really run up the fees, but is absolutely critical to the finalization of assets. Such values require a complex analysis but, since the interest is marital, the value must be quantified. The way the court decides on how to divide assets is a simple formula: identify the asset, determine its value and divide it. The expense of valuing the assets for division can be very large.
And this is just the beginning of the financial picture. Divorce litigation is time-consuming. Meeting at the lawyer’s office and appearing in court takes time away from your employment. The cost of childcare in order to appear in court must be calculated in the financial analysis. If an "Order of Support" is entered, the couple that once lived on 100 percent of the income in one house is now living on 100 percent of the income of two separate houses—just one more thing to consider.
Once the assets are split between the parties, the lifestyle of each will be reduced by the division of what they have earned together. Because of the reductions in income to each party, the marital residence will have to be sold. The loss of the home and the need to pay the cost of relocating is another financial hit the parties will undertake. Also, don’t forget the replacement of the furniture—now two houses or two apartments must be furnished. Additional legal fees may be generated if one party fails to abide by an agreement reached or a court order, and the lawyer must now become re-involved to enforce the agreement.
As you can see, much of what the couple has accumulated together may be lost in the process. Clearly, it makes sense to at least investigate (and invest) in a form of counseling before embarking on a divorce, no matter how angry you may be.