Divorce: How Much and How Long? -part one-

divorce Oct 20, 2022

Every one getting divorced seems to ask these two questions: how much will it cost and how long does it take.

Well, every case is different, and so there is no cookie-cutter approach or exact formula to determine either the total fees or the length of the proceeding.  People who don’t have kids won’t have to grapple with custody and child support, but may have complicated spousal maintenance or property issues.  People with kids may agree on property, but have a hard time figuring out a parenting time schedule.

That said, I can give you general time frames, dollar amounts, and two basic rules of thumb.

The first rule of thumb is: the more adversarial your case, the longer it will take to resolve and the more you will spend on attorney’s fees and professional services (i.e., custody evaluator, guardian ad litem, etc.).

When parties can’t agree, then professionals are often involved to help determine what might be best for the kids or for the pocketbooks.  The involvement of professionals means time and money.  For example, a private custody evaluation can easily take three months to complete and cost in excess of $10,000.

Further, if you and your spouse cannot agree, then the unsettled issues ultimately have to be presented to a judge for final resolution.  But, this is seen as the option of last resort.  The judge will try to get the parties to work out their own issues first, usually through more than one process (like mediation, etc.).  The process of getting the parties to decide their own issues can take months and thousands of dollars.  If the case ultimately is tried before a judge, the judge has a long period (ninety days in Minnesota) to rule on the issues!  And there’s lots and lots of time and money in preparing for and attending trial – often tens of thousands of dollars.

The second rule of thumb is: the more complex your case is, the longer it will take to resolve and the more it will cost.

Examples of complex cases include:  high net worth cases (with lots of income, assets and tax planning concerns); businesses owned by one or both parties, which will need to be appraised; domestic abuse between the parties; serious custody/parenting time issues; significant non-marital assets owned by one or both parties that need to be traced and extracted from the marital estate; a claim for spousal maintenance made by one party.  These cases often require the assistance of outside professionals (i.e., custody evaluators, business valuators, guardians ad litem, etc.), and their involvement amounts to time and money for the parties.  These kinds of cases are also often contentious, and, as discussed above, animosity can drive up both the length and expense of the divorce.