Potential Hidden Costs Of A Do-It-Yourself Divorce

cost of divorceBy Tara Lynne Groth

Child support, mortgage payments and attorney fees are the bulk of expenses in a divorce. To keep costs down many people opt for the pro se route — the Do-It-Yourself divorce solution — and represent themselves.

Since the other expenses are typically fixed, and an attorney’s final invoice billed at hundreds of dollars an hour is a variable amount, the DIY route is an attractive solution for budget-conscious parents.

However, the price tag of a DIY divorce isn’t calculated during the divorce process. Down the line parents usually discover they had a right to certain property, funds or child custody. Visiting court and filing motions to modify comes with their own expenses.

If someone has their heart set on the DIY divorce route they should still consult an attorney. An initial consult with an attorney will cost a couple hundred dollars, but the information about divorce laws and state laws could pay for itself tenfold.

“With consults, fathers can get the ‘lay of the land,'”explained John Faggio, a CPA and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) in Columbia, Md. “If dads don’t know their responsibilities and what is financially possible, emotions can take over and they’ll promise to pay more than what’s fiscally possible…and make decisions that will negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.”

Faggio is empathetic to couples divorcing in today’s tumultuous economy. DIY divorce may be the only option, but he advises parents to have that initial consult, either with an attorney or a CDFA.

Marianna A. Goldenberg, another CDFA, has been a financial planner for over 15 years. She works with couples who are dividing their assets during divorce. When she learns they can’t afford attorneys she gives them all the same financial advice on divorce.

“Put emotions aside and have a well thought out and researched plan,” Goldberg said. “Make sure you project into the future, including inflation and escalating medical, child care, education and other important costs.”

Plus, when there are complicated financial assets like executive plans with stock options, there are future liabilities that the couples usually aren’t familiar with. A consult fee can pay for itself in just one visit.

She reminds all of her clients that they may be happy with the papers they sign today, but they need to think about their future situations.

The saying goes “if you want something done you have to do it yourself.” When it comes to divorce, parents should use all the help they can find.

In a related divorce article, read case examples of dads who have filed pro se and learn about divorce resources available to those who represent themselves.

Read Related Article: “Pro Se Divorce Case Examples


Tara Lynne Groth is a full-time freelance writer residing in Cary, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in places such as GO (AirTran Airways’ in-flight magazine), the Providence Journal and Chesapeake Family. Learn more about Tara by visiting her website www.taralynnegroth.com.

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