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More Than Meets the Eye: The Hidden Costs of Litigated Divorce

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Have you ever heard people say things like, “divorce is way too expensive” or “I cannot afford to get divorced?” Do you want to know why that is? It goes far beyond the actual costs that you expend on your divorce attorney or court fees. While those expenses can certainly mount, they are somewhat quantifiable. The numbers that are not as predictable are the far more extensive costs that are rarely considered. Sure, attorney fees and/or other experts required for your case will cost a lot. But what are the hidden costs?

Time lost at work: Most people do not realize how much time is actually spent in court on a traditional divorce matter. Let’s say that there are six (6) court appearances on your case for that year- that is already over one week that you had to take off from work. There is no quick, in and out, when it comes to appearing in court. With each court appearance requiring the attorneys and the parties to appear every single time, there are four individuals all waiting for the case to be called and some progress to be made- hopefully. The court runs on its own schedule and the best you can do is be patient. The requirement that you are in the court each time means that you will have to take that time from work, regardless of the inconvenience to you or any deadlines you may have at work. I have heard judges tell the litigants, point blank, when they complained about not having any more time to take from work, “then work this out because unless I have a signed settlement agreement on my desk, you are required to be here next time.” With such limited paid time off for many employees, giving up these days to spend in court is an added cost to the litigation process that benefits no one.

Child care: What if you have young children who are not school aged and you are the primary caregiver? Then you will have to make all child care arrangements in advance and you will have to shoulder that financial burden. If the court case runs until 4:30 pm and your child gets out of school at 2:30 pm, are you able to make arrangements at the last minute for a sitter? If so, what will that cost you? While most child care expenses are expected to be shared between the parents, these are still expenses that must be taken into consideration.

Visitation: Supervised visitation is when one parent may only visit the child through a court-approved provider. The parent will go to a designated facility and will see the child there for about an hour or two, with staff there to observe the interactions and ensure the environment is safe. These situations are almost always the result of a court order, stating that the parent may only see the child under these conditions. And while supervised visitation is not all that common, it is still possible that you will only have the ability to visit with your child on certain days/times, according to the schedule of the facility and the other parent. And who is paying for this supervised visitation services? That’s right- you are.

Additional attorneys: What if the judge orders that the children need an attorney to represent their interests? Many times, the judge wants to ensure that the children have a voice in the process and will not rely on the conflicting parents to provide that information. In these situations, the judge may issue an order that states the child should be assigned with his/her own attorney. Do you know who will pay for that? It will be you and your spouse. And if there is more than one child, the court may also appoint each child with a different attorney.

Travel costs: Most people on Long Island have cars as their main mode of transportation, as the public transportation infrastructure is not ideal, to say the least. When you are required to appear in court and you must drop of your child to the child care provider, you must drive there or you must find some suitable public or private transportation. If you do have a car, then what if you have car issues and cannot make it? The case will be rescheduled and you will have to appear the next time- causing you too lose another day at work. Not only is this inconvenient but it can cause a real financial hardship on families.

Personal time costs: If you are required to take time to appear in court, you may lose that time from work. Or you may lose that time with a family member or just doing what you enjoy doing for yourself. What is your time worth? If you are paying your attorney $450 per hour to be in the courtroom, waiting for your case to be heard, then that is how you can quantify that attorney’s time. How do you quantify your time?

Written by Liz Vaz, Esq.

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