Nov 03

The Annoying Truth: 7 Factors that Make Your Divorce Cost More

Written by: Megan Dell


Getting divorced is a major decision and, often, requires significant financial investment. Many people have no idea what the overall divorce cost will be, which can be nerve-wracking and stressful. 

You deserve to know the overall divorce cost and what divorce expenses to expect in this process. In this article, we’ll take you through the factors likely to make your divorce cost more. There isn’t a single price that will cover every divorce, but by the end of this article, you will better understand how to predict what the cost of your divorce might be.

cost of divorce

1 Your spouse does not agree with you

Almost everyone says they want an “uncontested divorce.” Unfortunately, most divorce cases do not start off being uncontested but instead, turn into a contested divorce. To truly be “uncontested,” both spouses must agree on every detail of how to disentangle their lives. 

The longer two people are married, the more intertwined their lives are likely to be. The more dependent two people are on each other, the harder it is for them to establish individual lives. 

There are a lot of details that must be agreed upon to accomplish an uncontested divorce. The less you and your spouse can agree on, the more expensive your divorce will be.

2 The marital estate is complicated

The marital estate consists of all the assets and debts to be divided in the divorce. The longer two people are married, the more likely it is they have acquired assets and incurred debts. It is also true that if a couple earns substantial income, they are likely to have a more complicated marital estate.

Figuring out the marital estate can also be complicated if one spouse has been kept in the dark about the parties’ finances. Both parties can use discovery to obtain information about assets and debts using an expert like a forensic accountant for example. Doing so often increases the total cost of the divorce.

3 There are fault grounds for divorce

South Carolina continues to allow you to seek a divorce on fault grounds, including adultery, habitual drunkenness/drug use, and physical cruelty. In fault-based divorces, spouses often feel betrayed, dismissed, or cast aside while the other spouse has already accepted the end of the marital relationship.

Often, this leads to one spouse being ready to move forward more quickly than the other. Meanwhile, the spouse who feels victimized must work through their emotions before they can participate meaningfully in the legal process. 

When spouses are in different emotional stages, the cost of divorce can be increased if each spouse tries to force the other to the same stage. Instead, divorcing spouses can reduce the cost of their divorce by respecting each other’s emotional needs.

4 Alimony is an issue in the divorce

South Carolina Family Court judges continue to have power to award spousal support or alimony to either spouse in a divorce. Whether to award alimony, and how much alimony to award, is entirely within the discretion of the Family Court as long as specific statutory factors are considered.

When either party seeks an award of alimony, both parties’ work histories, health, and ability to support themselves become relevant. Therefore, a claim for alimony increases the likelihood discovery will be necessary.

Additionally, S.C. Code Ann. Section 20-3-130(A) provides that a spouse who commits adultery before the financial issues in a divorce are resolved cannot be awarded alimony. The practical result is when one spouse seeks an award of alimony, the other spouse often claims no alimony can be awarded because of adultery.

5 You have children

If you and your spouse have children, then your divorce is likely to be more expensive. You have to work through concerns about custody, visitation, and financial support. Additionally, both parties must consider how they expect their lives, and their children’s lives, to change over time.

These parts of a divorce require significant attention to detail to ensure nothing is overlooked. If two parents truly cannot agree on how to resolve issues related to their children, then a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to investigate, further increasing the cost of divorce.

6 Mental health often affects divorce negotiations

People who have mental health conditions are more likely to get divorced. Unfortunately, such mental illness can also increase the cost of divorce.

A spouse who is struggling with mental illness may be less able to handle financial responsibilities associated with maintaining the marital assets and debts. They may be unable to support themselves, or their children, financially. 

Additionally, it can be harder to negotiate with a spouse who struggles with mental illness. They may be agreeable one day and disagreeable a few days later. Or, even more confusing, their goals may change from day to day, making it feel impossible to ever reach a resolution.

7 Family Court can be unpredictable

There are 64 judges in South Carolina Family Court. They are called to review voluminous, detailed evidence in short periods of time and then apply statutory and case law to the facts of the individual situation before them.

Our judges make every effort to get it right, but they are human. Sometimes, they get it wrong. When that happens, there are methods of challenging a judge’s decision, but pursuing them will increase the cost of your divorce.

Use Our Divorce Cost Estimator

Knowing the factors affecting the cost of divorce will make you better prepared to ask good questions and make informed decisions about divorce before you hire legal counsel. 

We’ve created a Divorce Cost Estimator to see how the above factors are likely to affect the cost of your divorce. If you are curious about the potential cost of an impending divorce, go ahead, give our Divorce Cost Estimator a try. 

The best way to predict the cost of your divorce, however, is to schedule a consultation with an experienced Family Court attorney. At Dell Family Law, we want to help you understand your options and participate in creating a strategy to accomplish your goals.

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