Cost of a Collaborative Divorce versus Litigation

Clients often ask us to address the cost comparison between various process options (litigation, mediation, self-help, Collaborative, etc.). In all cases, the quicker parties come to resolution, the cheaper the process. However, the Collaborative process can offer a cost-saving in several key areas. First, in cases involving assets like homes or businesses, contested litigation cases often result in dueling experts. Each side hires an expert to testify regarding the value of the particular asset. These costs can range from a few hundred dollars for a home appraisal to $5,000-$10,000 for a business appraisal. The cost for trial testimony increases from there, as experts present their differing opinions to the judge. The two sides generally do not share the results of their appraisals in advance of trial, so there is an “ambush” factor that sometimes requires additional expert analysis on the day of trial. In contrast, in the Collaborative process the team chooses a single, agreed-upon, neutral expert. That expert gathers input from both parties and provides a transparent analysis of the cost. The team is able to provide additional information and ask the expert to provide a range of options or valuations, depending on the asset being valued. This is an overall cost-saving to the family, both in time and money, reducing the overall cost of a Collaborative divorce.

A more subtle savings in the overall cost of a Collaborative divorce comes via the use of mental health professionals. Divorce cases often get bogged down when the emotions of one (or both) parties gets in the way of reasoned negotiations. In standard litigation cases, this may manifest in one side pushing a “fight” – temporary motions, voluminous requests for documents, bombastic letters to opposing counsel – all which translates into increased fees for both parties. In the Collaborative cases, the team recognizes the normalcy of the emotional component of the legal case. When a client gets stuck in an emotional response, we recognize that we cannot move forward and effectively negotiate. We allow the party (or parties) to take a break from the legal issues and address issues of communication, co-parenting, or other similar challenges that may be impeding progress. This allows parties to then regroup with their lawyers and come back to the negotiating table with a clearer mind.

We are happy to discuss the cost of a Collaborative Divorce during our initial consultations. You can also learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process through our website.