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How Much Will My Divorce Cost

By Amar S. Weisman, Esquire

The cost of divorce ranges from a few hundred dollars to well into the millions (most fall in between). It is difficult to predict how much yours will cost ahead of time. It largely depends on others--it depends on your spouse, his/her lawyer, the master, judge, and how other family members respond to the divorce process. Although the cost of your divorce is difficult to assess before your case is complete, you might be able to get a sense of whether your case will be complicated and expensive by asking the following five questions:

1. How much marital property do you and your spouse own?

During divorce proceedings, all property that either party owns, marital and non-marital alike, must be accounted for-- including businesses, the marital home, retirement plans, automobiles, etc, as well as debt associated with those properties. The equitable distribution process involves title determination, appraisal, valuation, and possibly the redistribution of wealth according to principles of equity and fairness, in the form of a cash award from one spouse to another.

If you and your spouse do not own much, then it may be a blessing in disguise because there is less to account for and nothing to fight over. Couples with significant assets can still streamline the process by fully disclosing all financial information. Many divorces become vitriolic during the discovery process when one spouse does not provide financial documents to the other.

2. Are there child custody and child support issues?

When a couple with children go through divorce proceedings, the court will adjudicate issues of child custody and child support. Often parents are able to put aside their differences and agree on a reasonable physical custody and child support arrangement. Cases become complicated when parents cannot decide who will care for the children, where the children will live, where they will go to school, and how decisions will be made concerning education, religion, and upbringing. The court will step in and make the decision, but the court will only do so after a lengthy and often costly fact-finding process, often involving child psychologists and even attorneys to represent the children, at the expense of one or both parents.

3. What are the grounds for your divorce?

In Maryland, you and your spouse cannot get a divorce just because one (or both) of you would like to be divorced. You must establish “grounds” for the divorce in court. The available grounds for divorce include one-year separation, desertion, cruel/excessively vicious conduct and adultery. Divorces based on desertion, cruel/excessively vicious conduct andadultery may take longer because establishing evidence of these grounds takes longer than establishing that a couple have been living apart for a certain period of time. In addition, divorces based on desertion, cruel/excessively vicious conduct and adultery are more emotionally charged and, therefore, more difficult to resolve.

4. Are you likely to get attorney’s fees?

Even if your divorce involves complex issues and is long and expensive, your divorce may cost *you* less if your spouse is ordered to pay attorney’s fees. Attorney’s fees may be awarded throughout your case; sometimes attorney’s fees are awarded at the beginning to allow a spouse who is not the primary wage earner to be represented by an attorney. The judge has discretion over whether to grant attorney’s fees for all or part of your legal bills. Of course, the cost of yourdivorce can increase greatly if your spouse is awarded attorney’s fees.

Learn More

If you would like to get more of a sense about what your divorce may cost, feel free to Contact the Law Offices of Amar S. Weisman by calling 410-321-4994. During the initial consultation, we can discuss the different elements of your case and make a better prediction of what the final cost may be for you.

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