A joke floating around the internet asks: “Do you know why a divorce cost so much? Because it’s worth it.” The joke, although in bad taste, poses another interesting question: how do you protect yourself from today’s high divorce costs?
An Un-level Playing Field
As Forbes magazine recently reported, divorce is never easy. It represents the end of a way of life you have known for years.
Not only could a divorce wear you out emotionally, it could wear you out financially.
Even the wealthiest may not have sufficient access to capital during a divorce. Assets could be frozen during the divorce. Some turn to friends or family for capital but, for some, this is not an option and certainly it is not an easy ask.
It’s not uncommon for the spouse with the financial power during the marriage to declare war against their former partner by cutting off credit cards and hiding assets.
Those who can’t bear the divorce costs, often “surrender,” reluctantly agreeing to a sub-par settlement, all because he or she can’t afford the steadily mounting divorce costs, or can’t take the stress of protracted litigation, with someone who can afford to litigate a case to death.
Florida Law on Attorneys’ Fees
One way to level the playing field of high divorce costs is to ask one side to pay for attorneys’ fees. In Florida attorney’s fees may be awarded in a divorce, including enforcement and modification proceedings, separate maintenance, custody and support proceedings and appellate proceedings.
The court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding.
I’ve written about reducing attorneys’ fees through various means before. The purpose of awarding attorneys’ fees is to make certain that both parties in a divorce proceeding “will have similar ability to secure competent legal counsel.”
There are also fees for frivolous cases. A reasonable attorney’s fee can also be awarded to the prevailing party if the court finds that someone brought a claim that was not supported by the material facts the then existing law to those material facts.
Paying for Divorce
People are often surprised to find out that divorce costs so much, they can be shockingly expensive. Attorneys can cost many hundreds of dollars per hour and require substantial retainers up front, and then you have to add on fees for accountants, psychologists, guardians, and other professionals.
Clients often do not have the money to simultaneously engage in divorce proceedings and be able to afford living expenses such as mortgage payments, school tuition and other personal costs during the proceedings.
Divorce funding can “level the playing field,” enabling people to fund their attorney and expert fees while maintaining their standard of living. A business niche has emerged to provide financing for those without the immediate means to fund the legal battle.
This levels the playing field significantly against the well-known tactic of wealthy husbands or wives dragging on divorce proceedings and costs ad infinitum until their spouse runs out of money and are forced to concede.
With independent financing, these individuals can pursue settlements they might not otherwise have been able to attain.
The Forbes article is here.