While all divorces are different, one factor is almost sure to be a constant in every proceeding: the legal process of filing for and carrying-out a legal divorce is expensive.
The average cost of divorce ranges from $10,000 to $20,000. While this average divorce can differ from state-to-state, surveys show that divorces in Colorado have been found to cost an average of $14,500, with this cost skyrocketing to over $20,000 if there are children of the marriage involved.
But Why is Divorce so Expensive?
It is uncommon to see a “cheap” divorce, but the type and nature of your divorce can have an effect on the associated costs.
An uncontested divorce, for example, is likely to cost less because the couple is easily able to come to an agreement on every aspect of the divorce ahead of time. This involves less arguing in court and, in turn, less legal fees accrued throughout the process. An uncontested divorce is uncommon, however, because it is rare that a divorcing couple is likely to agree on everything unless they have been married for a short amount of time or have little-to-no marital property of any kind.
Contested divorces are more common, as divorcing couples are likely to disagree on various aspects regarding the terms of their divorce. These disagreements may arise out of issues of custody, alimony, property allocation, or another issue among the many that can be brought to light during the process of filing for divorce. As a result of these disagreements, divorce is more likely to become an expensive and lengthy process.
The Cost of Divorce
In a time of such stress and emotional turmoil, many spouses find themselves with a common question– if a divorce isn’t my fault, or if I do not have the necessary funds to pay for a divorce, can a judge require that my spouse pay for my fees in a divorce?
Generally, you cannot force your spouse to pay the legal and administrative costs that are associated with a divorce. This is because most states mandate, by law, that each spouse that is a party of the divorce is responsible for all of their own legal fees and costs. Colorado, however, has an exception.
Colorado’s Exception to the General Rule: §14-10-119
Colorado’s Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act, also known as Article 10 of the Colorado revised statutes, contains various laws regarding the process, procedure, and guidelines of filing for and obtaining a divorce in the state of Colorado.
Within Article 10 is §14-10-119, which regards attorney’s fees and the payment thereof. It states:
The court from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, may order a party to pay a reasonable amount for the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding under this article and for attorney’s fees, including sums for legal services rendered and costs incurred prior to the commencement of the proceeding or after entry of judgment. The court may order that the amount be paid directly to the attorney, who may enforce the order in his name.
Understanding the Scope of Colorado Law
So, what exactly does Colorado law offer to spouses who are seeking payment of their legal costs in a divorce? According to §14-10-119, the court may consider the financial resources of both of the parties to the divorce and, upon this consideration, may order one of those parties (one spouse) to pay a reasonable amount for the cost of the divorce to the other party. Additionally, these payments can be ordered to be made directly to the attorney of the party who can’t afford the legal costs.
In short, there is much flexibility when it comes to the timing of this consideration, the amount paid by the spouse, and whether there shall be any payments made at all. For example, the consideration can be made at any time during the divorce proceedings. Judges are given discretion to exercise varying interpretations of the term “reasonable,” however, so it can be difficult to make a certain determination of the result before the judge exercises his or her power over the decision. Overall, the judge is going to look to both you and your spouse’s income as well as your day-to-day costs in making this decision.
In Colorado, it is possible to get a court order that requires your spouse to pay your legal costs in a divorce regardless of who initiated the procedure. Without legal representation, however, you may have a difficult time making sure the judge in question has all the information needed to decide in your favor. If you are seeking a divorce or are in the midst thereof and find yourself concerned about the costs associated with the process, schedule a consultation to speak to one of our Colorado family law specialists today.
Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash