Why Do So Many Divorces Get Ugly
What happens between “I do” and “I don’t” that makes divorce one of the most expensive endeavors any of us will ever experience in a lifetime?
Well, did you see the 2019 movie drama Marriage Story? It’s about a couple who was headed toward a lovely amicable divorce, gracefully navigating from “we” to “me,” when BAM lawyers jumped in and hijacked the narrative. They turned an otherwise graceful relationship exit into an all-out war.
But while was accurate in many ways, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The high price of divorce isn’t caused solely by the fact that some lawyers are greedier than others. If it was, that would be something we could fix. Maybe not overnight, but we could definitely move in that direction by exposing the villains and educating consumers. The truth is that the entire divorce system contributes to the problem. And it’s not something that can be easily fixed.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average marriage lasts eight years. So, a relationship of nearly a decade is not going to unwind in a few days. Divorce is a process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And in the U.S., marriage is a serious financial contract with profound implications. As we dissolve this contract, it can be tricky and fraught with emotional triggers.
Although cost and conflict are inevitable in divorce, the process needn’t rise to the level of an all-out war. War is expensive, and in divorce, no one wins.
Potential Economic Consequences Of Divorce
California recognizes a community property rule when it comes to divorce. Any assets or property gained by a couple during a marriage typically counts as community property. If the couple commingles their personal assets and debts, those assets and debts also fall under community property.
Some marrying couples develop prenuptial agreements that stipulate each partners financial obligations and rights in the event the marriage ends, and most prenuptial agreements include specific clauses pertaining to different possible ends to a marriage. For example, a prenuptial contract may stipulate that if one of the spouses engages in infidelity, he or she forfeits rights to certain assets. An experienced family law attorney can help draw up a sound and legally binding prenuptial agreement.
California strives for equitable distribution of community property in divorce. For example, if a couple together owns $2 million in total assets and property, the court would strive to divide the community property to one million each. However, divorces are rarely this simple. Married couples with significant assets face especially complex property division proceedings. If the divorcing couple disagrees about ownership of a particular asset or piece of property, the court may rule they must sell the property and split the proceeds, or one spouse could offer other property to buy out the other spouses share of the property in question.
Can I Recover Some Or All Of The Divorce Costs From My Spouse
If you are a middle-class income divorce with minimal custody issues and your spouse is just being difficult, your divorce will cost you more to complete but you also have rights pursuant to Family Code section 271 to get attorney fees and costs against your spouse for that unreasonable conduct.
You don’t have to wait until the end of the case. You can seek these attorney’s fees in the form of sanctions early in the case. Our attorneys know this first hand because we have been successful in doing exactly that.
If there is also an income disparity or disparity in access to money between you and your unreasonable spouse, then, in addition to Family Code section 271, you also have a “need” for fees.
Family Code 2030 through 2032 gives a spouse the right to seek attorney’s fees and costs. Our attorneys have also successfully obtained such fees against spouses with a greater income.
If you are the higher earner and your spouse is being unreasonable, you also have rights. Don’t fret just because you think you make more money.
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The Variables Impact The Divorce Cost The Most
The divorce type can have the most impact on divorce cost. A divorce can be contested or uncontested, meaning both spouses agree on critical factors and lawyers do not need to argue in court. The factors include but are not limited to:
- Assets and debts being split
Completing a divorce when children are involved can make the process more complicated. Child support and child custody battles tend to increase the price of a divorce because issues may be highly contested among both parties. Prolonging the process of divorce increases the amount of time lawyers need to spend on a case, which can cause divorce costs to skyrocket. When topics such as children are debated, paperwork and additional legal help may be necessitated, which can increase the overall cost.
When financial disputes arise, a waiting period for both spouses and their lawyers to bargain with one another may take place. The amount of time the bargaining process takes can be drastic. However, in California, the community property rule states a divorce must have an equal distribution of debts and assets. A couple and their lawyers must agree on what is fair. Coming to an arrangement may prolong the divorce by months, causing the cost to increase.
Related: Child Support FAQs in California
How Much Is A Divorce In California
When exploring the divorce cost in California, it is necessary to understand your strategies and visions for your marriage termination. Depending on whether you are open to cooperation with your partner and relevant professionals, you may finalize the divorce quickly and at a considerable price or waste a fortune on a dragged-out process.
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Requirements For An Uncontested Divorce In California
In general, to get an uncontested divorce in California, you must meet all of the following criteria:
- one spouse must lived for the previous six months in California and the previous three months in the county where the divorce case is filed )
- both spouses must be willing and available to sign all of the necessary paperwork, and
- both spouses must agree on the settlement of all issues, including division of property, spousal support, child support, and child custody.
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How To File For Divorce In California
To begin a divorce in California, one spouse must file a petition for dissolution, which asks basic questions about the marriage and about what court orders will be sought for issues like alimony or property division. This Find My Court tool helps petitioners in California figure out where to file.
The petitioning spouse must then provide, or serve, the other spouse with copies of the divorce paperwork, including a summons. This officially informs the other spouse, called the respondent, of the case and provides notice of 30 days to submit a response form.
In California, a six-month waiting period must be observed after filing before dissolution can be made final.
You must also complete a if children are involved in the divorce. The California Courts offers an excellent self-help guide for divorce with an overview of the steps and links for all necessary paperwork. The complete text of Californias procedural provisions for dissolution of marriage can be found here.
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How To Save Money On A Divorce
If you and your spouse are willing to work together, the best thing you can do to save money is to go DIY.
However, couples sometimes find out that divorce is a bigger project than they expected, often leading them to give up and hire attorneys.
Thats why an online divorce with Its Over Easy is your best bet. This service strikes the balance between easy and inexpensive, allowing you to move on with your life sooner than you expected.
To continue learning about divorce in California, see the following articles in the series:
How Much Does Divorce Cost Without A Lawyer
A good way to save money on your divorce is to do your divorce without a lawyer. In many states, this means being pro se. In California, if you file on your own behalf, you’re pro per.
If you have an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse can create your own agreement. Your costs will include filing fees, serving the papers, and the cost of divorce papers if you get the divorce papers online. Online companies will charge for preparation of divorce papers, and some companies can have lawyers review them for you.
If you can get a divorce packet from your court or from your state’s website, the papers are usually free.
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How Long Does A Divorce Take 12 To 18 Months
According to Nolo, the average time it takes to complete the process of dissolving a marriage is 12 months. However, for those who went to trial to resolve at least one contested issue, the average time expanded to 18 months.
Going to court creates more attorney fees and, in most cases, also increases the court fees you will pay. While every divorce requires legal dissolution of the marriage, those who have an uncontested divorce typically pay just one filing fee, while couples who contest issues may have to pay additional fees for motions, court reporting services, and other miscellaneous court expenses.
Property And Asset Division
California is a community property state, which means that the law typically counts any assets or property acquired during a marriage as community property. This also means both parties are responsible for any accumulated debt. A prenuptial agreement can change things because it details each persons rights and obligations in the event of separation.
California, like most community property states, tries to equally distribute properties and assets during a divorce, but it is not always as simple as dividing things 50/50. You cannot cut a home or car in half. You and your spouse must agree about who gets a particular asset or whether one of you purchases the others half of an asset. When disputes exist and you cannot reach an agreement, a judge might order you to sell the asset and split the proceeds of the sale.
Complex property division takes time. Disagreement about that division further drags out your divorce and leads to increased attorney fees, court costs, and other related expenses. You can minimize your economic loss from a divorce by opening your mind and meeting your spouse halfway to a reasonable compromise, even though it might be emotionally difficult.
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Flat Fees And Alternative Fee Arrangements
Some lawyers charge a fixed or flat fee for a particular case rather than billing by the hour. While this is rare in some areas of law, its not uncommon with relatively simple, procedural cases like routine uncontested divorces, where lawyers can most easily estimate the workload. Flat fees are usually paid in advance.
Law firms sometimes use other billing arrangements, often referred to as alternative fee arrangements or value-based billing. Depending on the law firm, lawyers can have significant leeway in determining payment options and may be willing to negotiate a creative arrangement with a client. Its becoming increasingly common for lawyers to offer installments or fixed monthly fees, while others may accept nontraditional forms of payment like credit cards.
Some may even offer hybrid methods such as hourly rates with a guaranteed minimum and maximum. Contingency or success fees, which factor a cases outcome into billing arrangements are common in some areas of law but considered unethical in most states for family law and are illegal for divorces in other states. No matter what, its important for all fees to be disclosed in a written fee agreement or retainer.
Cost Of Family Law Form Interrogatories
The discovery process on a simple divorce may become time-consuming, especially if there are disputes over custody, parenting time, and the nature and extent of the assets.
Family law form interrogatories are straightforward as they are pre-printed, check the box forms. They are easy to check those boxes and serve. However, answering them may take hours of time.
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Want To File An Uncontested Divorce In California Speak With A Professional Today
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce, California makes the process relatively straightforward. Consider speaking with an expert to discuss your best option today.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.
Divorce Costs Without A Lawyer
In an uncontested divorce, spouses may forgo hiring a lawyer to handle their case. According to Nolos survey, this solution will save them $13,800.
Spouses may refuse the services of divorce lawyers if they:
- both mutually seek to divorce,
- want to do paperwork on their own,
- are ready to represent and defend their interests in court,
- do not have significant disagreements that make their case contested, and
- do not have a lot of shared marital property, assets, and debts.
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The Cost Of Divorce: Where Is It Most Expensive
According to the Institute For Family Studies, the rate of divorce is at its lowest in 50 years, with 14.9 of every 1,000 marriages in the US ending in divorce and the average marriage length increasing from 19 years in 2010 to 19.8 years in 2019.
However, despite these signs that divorces are decreasing, more than 746,000 divorces were still filed across the US, costing those involved not just their marriages and relationships but thousands of dollars in fees and, in many cases, debt. This leaves many needing to manage personal finances, and debt, let alone embark on a new life.
The Average Cost Of Divorce: $12900
According to a survey conducted by legal website Nolo, the average total cost of divorce in 2019 was $12,900 while the median cost was $7,500.
However, there were substantial differences in divorce costs based on factors such as
- whether child support or child custody were involved,
- whether alimony was an issue, and
- whether the divorce was settled outside of court or the couple went to trial.
The table below shows Nolo’s results for the average cost of a divorce under different circumstances:
|With no major contested issues||$4,100|
|With disputes settled out of court||$10,600|
|That goes to trial on at least one issue||$20,379|
|That goes to trial on two or more issues||$23,300|
Divorces that go to trial are significantly more expensive due to the added legal fees involved. A dispute over alimony, or spousal support, also adds substantially to the price tag — even more than child-related disputes.
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How Soon After A Divorce Can You Remarry In California
There is a minimum statutory six-month waiting period before you can remarry in the state of California Be advised that nothing will automatically happen six months after you file for divorce.
6 monthsGetting a divorce in CaliforniaGetting a divorce takes at least 6 months There are 4 major parts of the process and they are the same for couples who are married and for those in a domestic partnership Its the same process to get a legal separation But, there isnt a required 6-month waiting period.
What Is A Family Law Attorneys Real Property Lien
Parties are authorized under California Family Code 2033 to encumber their share of community real property in order to retain an attorney of their choice. In these circumstances, the party signs a promissory note to the attorney and a lien is processed against the home. There are many formalities that are necessary to effectuate this arrangement, which your family law attorney can discuss with you. Under Family Code 2034, the court may prohibit a party to effectuate a lien if the lien may prohibit the other partys right to their fair share of community property .
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