FAQ

Q. How much does it cost to get a divorce?

A. My usual answer is, “Whatever you have and can borrow,” then I ask, “Whose children will go to college—yours or some lawyer’s?” That’s what can happen if you hire an attorney before you read my advice in Make Any Divorce Better. In the hands of attorneys, a divorce can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars —each! But, if you follow my advice, your divorce can be done for a few hundred if you can do it all yourself, and perhaps a few thousand if you get legal advice and use a mediator to help you solve problems and settle disagreements, but still only a fraction of the cost when both sides are represented in court by attorneys.

Q. How long does it take to get a divorce?

A. There are two answers to this question.

Emotionally, you are divorced as soon as you feel whole and centered within yourself as a separate person. This is about breaking the bonds, patterns, dependencies, and habits that attach you to your ex-spouse—learning to let go of anger, fear, hurt, guilt, blame, and resentment. This can go quickly or take forever. It’s up to you.

Legally, your divorce is over when you get a judgment. If there’s no legal opposition and your paperwork is handled efficiently, it can take a few weeks in Nevada, about three months in Texas and six or seven months in California. This is because most states have waiting periods and every state is different.

Most cases take longer because of the time it takes the parties to reach an agreement on their terms. Cases with a lawyer on each side can take years! But, if you follow my advice in Make Any Divorce Better, things will go a lot more smoothly and it will be over sooner. However, you can’t rush things. You need to be patient and take as long as necessary for both sides to calm down and negotiate or mediate.

Q. Do we have to go to court to get a divorce?

A. If you have attorneys on both sides, you will probably end up in court. But, if you follow my advice and take the steps I recommend in Make Any Divorce Better, chances are extremely high that you will not have to go to court. People only go to court when their attorneys take them there (a standard practice) or when they can’t work out the terms of their divorce and have to get a judge to decide their disagreement. If you can follow my advice and work out terms yourselves or with the help of a mediator, you won’t have to go to court.

Q. Do I have to retain an attorney? Should I?

A. The key word is “retain,” meaning the attorney “takes” your case and takes professional responsibility for your case. Going to a mediator-attorney just for advice can be helpful, but it is almost never a good idea to retain an attorney unless you have no other choice and not until you are informed and prepared. Retaining an attorney means your case will quickly be taken to court, which creates more conflict and hugely increases your cost. When you hire an attorney, he or she will ask for a retainer fee. This rarely covers the total cost and no attorney will guarantee a “cap” on the costs. We get calls all the time from people who have spent $10,000 or $50,000 or more and still don’t have their divorce!

Don’t call or retain an attorney until you read Make Any Divorce Better and find out how things work and how best to use an attorney. It is far better to educate yourself about the divorce process and things you can do to make it go better, and then if you want help, read Who Can I Call? to find out what kind of help and how to find it.

Q. Do we have to be in agreement to mediate?

A. No, you only have to agree to try mediation. Mediation is successful in most cases. See Who Can I Call?

Q. Does divorce have tax consequences?

A. Yes. Almost every aspect of divorce could possibly have important tax consequences. Depending upon what property and income you have, you could possibly save a lot of money by seeing a tax expert, especially before making a settlement agreement. There are rules you should know if you have children. The tax rules are numerous and they change frequently, but fortunately there is an excellent little booklet that tells you everything you should know, and it is absolutely free. Simply call your local Internal Revenue Service office and ask for IRS publication 504, “Tax Information for Divorced or Separated Individuals.” While you’re at it, get publication 501, too.

Q. What is collaborative divorce?

A. Increasingly popular, in this approach spouses are represented by separate attorneys who pledge in writing not go to court or threaten to go to court. Instead, they use negotiation and mediation to reach a settlement. In rare cases where the spouses can’t reach an agreement, the original attorneys must drop out and the spouses will have to get different attorneys to take the case into litigation. Sometimes the collaborative team will include other professionals, such as a divorce coach, family counselor, child specialist, accountant, or financial planner. Collaborative divorce has a good track record and even with all the professional services you get, it still costs less than a court battle. To find a collaborative lawyer, call Divorce Helpline in California and in other states search the Internet under “Collaborative law” plus the name of your city or nearest large city or your state.

Q. How does divorce affect resident aliens?

A. Resident aliens who are divorced after less than two years of marriage are in danger of losing their resi­dent status and they and their dependent children may be in danger of deportation. There will, however, be no prejudice to status if the divorce was caused by child or spouse abuse. If there’s a recent green card in your case, you should definitely consult an immigration attorney.

Q. What about those quick, cheap divorces from the Dominican Republic?

A. Divorces from a foreign country are generally valid in the U.S. if they are valid in the country that granted the divorce. However, in cases where neither of the parties actually goes there to establish residency, such divorces will almost certainly be invalid in any U.S. court and any orders regarding your property, children and support will not be enforceable. Unless acting on the advice of a reliable attorney, don’t waste your money on a phony piece of paper from a mail-order Dominican divorce scam.