torn divorce decree and cash, with broken wedding ring When getting a divorce, new client will often ask me how long their case will take and how much it will cost.      A few factors (and misconceptions) are:

  1. We have a lot of money and therefore this is a complicated case.  Not always.  If a family has assets well in excess of their debts it is often easier to resolve because it may be a matter of determining who gets what and there is enough to go around.   The more difficult cases are when there are nominal assets, income, or significant debt.  It is often much more complicated to figure out a plan for supporting two households when the family is barely getting by together in one household.  When there is significant debt, no one wants to divide it up, and it is passed around like a hot potato.  There are times when a family is so heavily burdened with debt that facing the prospect of living apart may force one or both into a bankruptcy.
  2. Someone in the family is self-employed.  There are many self-employed people who are honest to the penny as to their income and expenses.  Sadly for us taxpayers, there are many who are not.  If a spouse is reporting income of $20,000 for the past 10 years, but the family lives as if that person is making $200,000, it makes things much more difficult when there is a break-up as the person who is making the money will point to a tax return and say “see, we are a family earning $20,000” and the other person says “we live like a family who earns $200,000, even though I signed a joint tax return affirming that $20,000 was correct.”
  3. Reasonableness of the spouse and the lawyer.  While you may be the most reasonable person in the world, and listen to my advice, your spouse may not be so reasonable, which is often why you are in the divorce process to begin with.  Your spouse’s attorney may assert an unreasonable position, or may simply want to “churn” the file.   Thankfully, most of my colleagues do not fall into this category.  However, there are those who use every tool at their disposal, whether they need to or not.

This is a very rough sketch of the many factors that can affect the time and expense of a legal matter.  A case in litigation has other factors that can cause delay or expense such as the particular judge assigned, the court, scheduling of parties, attorneys, and witnesses.  As you proceed in any case, it is good idea to speak to your attorney from time to time as to where you are in the process, the direction your case is taking, and what decisions and actions can be taken to limit the time and expense involved. While your attorney cannot predict every twist and turn, a seasoned and practical attorney can steer you in the right direction, and give you the knowledge to make informed choices.

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