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Coping With Divorce

Coping With Divorce - The Statistics
How is society coping with divorce? Let's look at the facts. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual divorce rate was 4.1 per thousand population in 2001, while there were 8.2 marriages per thousand in that same year. Simple math reveals that 50% of marriages end in divorce. In 2002, the number improved slightly to 3.9 divorces to 8.1 marriages. However, in 2003, we are seeing the numbers swinging back the other way, to 4.0 and 7.9, making the percentage rate of divorce climb to over 50%. These numbers do not include statistics from California, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana or Oklahoma. In California alone, while they do not report divorce statistics, estimates range from 60-75% for marriages that end in divorce. In England and Wales, the numbers are a bit higher. In the year 2000, 267,961 people where married, while 141,135 were divorced. This represents a 52.6% divorce rate.

In the last 25 years, every state has enacted "no-fault" divorce laws, making divorce easier, quicker, and less fraught with moralistic blame. Divorce rates in America rocketed to new heights (or lows) under the no-fault system. Though not all of the increase can be attributed exclusively to changes in the law, a significant portion can. A 1989 study by Justec Research in Virginia on the effects of no-fault divorce in 38 states found "very strong evidence" that no-fault laws increased divorce in eight states and "some lesser evidence" for increases in eight more. The study's author, lawyer and sociologist Thomas B. Marvell, concludes, "On the average, the no-fault laws increased divorces by some 20 to 25 percent. In none of the states studied did no-fault decrease divorce."

Coping With Divorce - The Financial Costs
Many people coping with divorce search the Internet for some kind of help. Remarkably, every website listed in the first 100 of the search engines is trying to sell a "do-it-yourself" package, a book on how to get a divorce, or divorce-related legal services. The following numbers are merely a sampling of what's out there:

For divorce mediation, the cost is usually between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the complexity of the issues involved and the level of disagreement between the spouses. Therefore, the average cost for mediation appears to be around $2,500.

With litigated divorces, the sky's the limit! Each party usually pays their own attorney a retainer of at least $1,500, and fees go up from there. It is common for litigated divorces to cost between $10,000 and $50,000 -- for each party! Here are some additional estimates:

  • Low conflict divorce, with some negotiation but uncontested final judgment, both spouses hire attorneys who charge around $350 per hour: $16,500.
  • Limited contested divorce case, no children, trial on common financial issues: $45,000.
  • Contested divorce case with custody issues, which settles right before trial date: $75,000.
  • Fully contested custody case, which proceeds to trial: $150,000.
  • Fully contested custody and financial issues case involving child custody evaluators and forensic valuation experts for business, pensions, etc.: $250,000.

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