High Cost of Litigating Your Divorce: 4 Attorneys & The Sale of a Marital Home . . . Why Can’t They Just Figure it Out?

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 While I was in Kings County Court this week waiting for a case to be heard, I observed a well-dressed and seemingly well-to-do divorcing couple “duel” it out in Court.  Two lawyers accompanied each spouse and judging by their perfectly tailored, and of course monogrammed suits, appeared to be some pretty high-priced New York attorneys.  I’m thinking at this point, this couple must have A LOT OF MONEY.  But as the court began to address the issues, it became apparent that indeed looks can be deceiving.  The unfortunate reality for this divorcing couple: they in the very near future will likely be forced to sell the marital home just to pay off their debts and keep their children in private school.

At this point I’m thinking, “yea, and I could only imagine how much of the proceeds will help fund those monogram inscriptions.”  Divorcing couples get into this situation all the time though.  I remember even before attending law school, when I was working at a matrimonial law firm in Brooklyn, there was a divorcing couple that ended up filing for bankruptcy because the cost of litigation had run the well dry.  Every single day without fail a letter was drafted and sent to opposing counsel for the most trivial of issues and concerns.  If it wasn’t a letter, it was the cops being called or an Order to Show Cause requesting emergency relief being filed with the court.  It was hands down one of the most contentious litigations I had ever witnessed and in fact was life changing.

The most ironic part of the story, the couple ended up reconciling; perhaps the commonality of newfound attorney debt had helped them to rekindle the flame.  Whatever the case, point being is attorneys, both high-priced and moderately priced ones, are expensive, especially in New York.  If families could simply find a way to analyze the cost-benefit analysis of divorce litigation versus divorce mediation or negotiation, perhaps they can save themselves money, time, headache, and hassle.  Keep their children in private school and maintain a more amicable relationship for the sake and benefit of both their children and themselves.  While divorce is a legal issue, it is important for divorcing couples to remember that family is not.

In a recent divorce mediation seminar I attended in New York, each individual went around the room and answered why he or she had chosen to become a divorce mediator.  One answer in particular was both eye and ear opening, she said, “after going through my own divorce, I knew – there simply had to be a better way.”  She confessed to the group that after thousands upon thousands of dollars had been spent in attorneys fees and almost 2 years of litigation had ensued, in one all nighter she and her ex were able to sit across the table from one another, in what had once been their warm and loving home, now serving a diametrically opposite role, able to finalize their divorce without attorney intervention.  When asked what had brought her there, she indicated she at that point had had enough.  She was a bright woman with a PhD and he was a well-educated man.  She said, “I thought, this is out of control, we are knee-deep in attorney debt and are moving nowhere slowly.”   And so, pen to paper, finance-to-finance, schedule-to-schedule, they figured it out, and she said, “That is why I went into divorce mediation, to help couples figure it out.”

My hope, the couple I observed this week . . . figures it out.