Question: How much should I plan on spending for my divorce?
Answer: That is difficult to say without knowing the specifics involved in your divorce. The current rate for a Family Law Attorney is $250-$350 per hour. There are many other costs associated with divorce. For instance a counselor is approximately $100-150 per hour. The expense for an accountant is $150 – $300 per hour. A home appraisal is approximately $350. A business valuation is approximately $3,000-$4,000. The cost of traditional mediation is approximately $750-$1,050 per hour. There is also the loss of productive time that you could be working, but is now spent on the visits to the professionals handling your case or going to court. It is a given that the experience can cause emotional and financial turmoil. One of the current financial magazines estimates the average divorce costs $36,000.
The average cost of mediated divorces through our office is less than $3,000, for both parties. Our goal for you is to reduce the turmoil by sorting through the issues and hopefully helping you and your spouse determine what your concerns are and making a plan for the best way to proceed. We think the best method is non-adversarial. There are situations that require the adversarial approach, but the financial and emotional toll it takes on people is huge. Despite what people think, there are creative alternatives that can be explored even in situations where the heat is high. We measure the financial outcome before anything is agreed to.
Question: I am anticipating a divorce in the next year and I have a big business deal coming up. Should I put it off until the divorce?
Answer: If you are thinking about being clever and slipping one by, don’t count on it. It is always better to take the higher ground. That is what your parents taught you, right? Hopefully that is what you teach your children also. Do what you would normally do regarding your personal finances and business transactions. Now is not the time to be making major changes in your financial or business behavior for the sake of gaining in the long run. It will all come out in the end if you do and then you will have some explaining to do. Be upfront about it. It may not have that much of an impact on the outcome of your settlement anyway. If you want to know the financial impact of anything regarding your divorce settlement, we would be happy to run some calculations that show the immediate and long term impact.
Question: I have never worked. Can I get Social Security?
Answer: If your spouse has worked, and if you have been married for 10 years or more, then you are entitled to one-half of your spouse’s Social Security or your own, whichever is higher, even if you are divorced. Your spouse still retains 100% of his or her Social Security benefit. This is an automatic guarantee and therefore it is not a negotiation point in a divorce.
Question: Should the custodial parent keep the house?
Answer: This is a great question because it’s one of the most important overlooked questions. The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. It’s important to pinpoint exactly what it will cost to maintain the home, factoring in taxes, insurance and inflation. The next step is to analyze if there is enough money coming in to stay comfortable in the home (in other words, pay the bills each month). Once that has been determined, the advisability of retaining the home must be compared to the advisability of giving up other assets (such as liquid accounts, retirement plans, etc). Finally, all decisions need to be weighed against current economic and stock market conditions. Certified Divorce Financial Analysts are trained to help people answer this question before they commit to a settlement that cannot be changed.
Question: Ours will not be a complicate divorce. Can we do it ourselves?
Answer: You have a variety of choices. Over 50% of divorces in Sarasota County are Pro Se (couples file and represent themselves). If you both agree you can do it yourselves. If you want someone to help you mediate or help either of you with the planning of your financial agreement and the outcome, we can help with that. If things get sticky along the way, either of you can either pay an hourly fee for an attorney’s advice or pay a lump sum retainer (approx. $3,000 – $7,500) to have an attorney represent you.