Divorce is a complicated matter. It is not something that couples take lightly. When the decision to divorce comes, it is often after a long-drawn-out period of conflict that eventually proves to be irreconcilable. When there are children involved, the decision becomes even more difficult to make. Still, when it becomes impossible for the relationship to continue, couples have to face it.
The Financial Cost of the Divorce Process
The process of divorce is expensive. According to a June 2021 article on The Atlantic, hiring a private divorce attorney can cost from $10,000 to $20,000. If the couple has children, it is best to hire a divorce attorney who is also a trusted child support lawyer. Couples need a private lawyer because the U.S. Constitution only guarantees free legal aid for criminal cases. Divorce, like child-custody disputes and eviction, is a civil case. There are free legal-aid organizations that serve civil cases, but they do not have enough lawyers.
The person filing for divorce will also need to hire a process server for about $200 to deliver the divorce paperwork to the other party. According to a November 2020 article on The Ascent, there is a filing fee that differs among states, ranging from $75 to $435. If the filer has a low income, though, some courts agree to waive this fee. A divorce that has child custody disputes and other disputes is more expensive than a no-contest divorce. A no-contest divorce takes about 12 months while any dispute can extend the process to 18 months.
In some states, couples must live apart for a certain number of months before filing for divorce. Among low-income couples, this is often unaffordable. The Atlantic highlights that because of the expense, a study found that some 15 percent of couples who are people of color with children and low-income simply separate without divorcing each other.
This means, however, that neither can remarry. It also means an ex-partner can continue to make financial and medical decisions for the spouse or can abuse the spouse’s credit. The ex-partner will also inherit property when the spouse dies. In cases of domestic abuse, The Ascent emphasizes that the abused spouse must contact the police who can help request a free domestic violence protection order.
The Payment of Alimony
The finalization of a divorce is not the end of expenses. It means, instead, having higher expenses overall henceforth because maintaining separate households is almost equivalent to doubling all previous expenses.
If the marriage had lasted for a long time and the judge determines that one spouse earns much more than the other, and has the capacity to provide financial support, the judge can require the payment of alimony. This can be a lump-sum payment or a monthly payment. It can be for a temporary period or a permanent arrangement until the recipient remarries or cohabitates. It also ends if either spouse dies, or either one has a reversal of fortunes. It is not tax-deductible for the payor and non-taxable for the recipient.
If the spouse required to pay alimony refuses to do so, the court can hold the person in contempt. A family law court will set a hearing to determine the cause of non-payment. The spouse who is in default faces fines and has to pay for the missed months.
Child Support Payments
Child support is the financial contribution of the noncustodial parent to the one who has custody of the child, meant for the child’s basic living expenses, including health care and education until the child reaches the age of 18. The court determines the amount of periodic child support based on the standard of living when the parents were still married, as well as the child’s specific health and educational needs.
It also considers the financial resources of both the custodial and non-custodial parent. Every state has its own method of calculating the amount of child support, usually a certain percentage of the noncustodial parent’s annual salary and bonuses.
The Federal Parent Locator Service locates a missing noncustodial parent to enforce child support obligations. In some cases, the state requires the employer of a non-complying parent to withhold the specified amount from his salary and forward this to the custodial parent. The employer is subject to penalties if he does not comply.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the noncustodial parent living in another state who fails to pay child support for more than a year or for more than $5,000 is committing a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine and up to six months in prison. If the child support payment of the noncustodial parent living in another state is overdue by more than two years or is more than $10,000, it is a criminal felony.
It is punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison. If the non-custodial parent flees the country or crosses state lines with child support in arrears for more than a year or more than $5,000, the person faces up to two years in prison.
Life goes on after a divorce, presumably with a better outlook. The financial hardships can be overcome with fortitude after the emotional and psychological suffering from an unhappy marriage ends.