In an era of economic uncertainty, pretty much every American wants a cheaper divorce. In fact, some Americans are under so much financial pressure that they cannot afford to get a divorce in the first place, forcing them to remain in unhappy or even unsafe marriages. So, what can we do to make divorce cheaper? Part of the responsibility lies with the spouses themselves, as they can take certain steps to lower their costs. But is there anything the government can do to reduce costs?
Can the Government Do Anything?
There is not much the government can do to make divorce less expensive for the average couple. Perhaps they could create new laws that enforce greater transparency for legal fees, but these costs are largely set in stone. One thing to remember is that inflation is driving legal fees higher and higher. Divorcing spouses have less purchasing power when buying groceries and essential goods. This means that they have less money left over for legal fees during a divorce.
Worse still, they might save for a few months and return to the lawyer’s office – only to find that the law firm has increased its rates to keep pace with inflation. The only way the government can address this issue is by reducing inflation. The only way to do that is to continue raising interest rates. But with the recent banking crisis, there is strong pressure on the Federal Reserve to pause rate hikes. This would probably make divorce even more expensive for the average American couple.
What Can Spouses Do to Reduce Costs?
Spouses can take a number of steps to reduce their divorce costs. The first and most obvious step is to have their ex pay their legal fees. This can be enforced by courts when one spouse earns much more than the other or has access to much greater assets. Another obvious step is to avoid the litigation process. Mediation or collaborative law is cheaper, quicker, and more private while often resulting in better outcomes. Unfortunately, many spouses refuse to come to the negotiation table if they feel very strongly about certain issues. These issues can be surprisingly trivial, and one notable example involves pet custody.
Pet custody has the potential to cost spouses a pretty penny. This issue has spiraled so far out of control in some areas that spouses are now signing “petnuptials” ahead of time. These legal agreements outline who will get the pet and whether custody will be shared. Not only does this reduce legal fees during a potential divorce down the road, but it also reduces the burden on American family courts.
On that subject, prenuptials also have the potential to reduce disputes – and therefore costs. When spouses take their emotions out of the equation and accept that marriages are little more than financial agreements in the modern era, prenuptials start to make a lot of sense. You may feel that marriage is sacred and symbolic, but the courts see this as a financial arrangement.