THE BLOG
08/20/2016 12:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Divorce Is Expensive (can you really afford it?)

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DIVORCE IS THE GREATEST DESTROYER OF WEALTH

Divorce is expensive. Period. Many of you may end up adding 10 years to your working lives just to recover from the financial blow of divorce. Think about that for a second. Can you really imagine having to work an extra 10 years to catch up and recover? It's just one of many bitter pills you'll need to swallow.

I'm not here to sugar coat it, you had better have plenty of cash! Let's face it, at a national average cost of $15-20K, divorce can break the bank. If you live in a big city, or if your divorce gets ugly, be prepared to spend a whole lot more. It can be multiples of the national average. This doesn't include the costs of moving and setting up a new residence.

Lawyers are expensive. Some may charge you a couple of hundred dollars just for that first consultation. If you end up hiring one, they will ask you for a retainer fee. Depending on where you live and their rates, this retainer can be about $5,000 for an average divorce. If the lawyer thinks there will be a lot of disputes or custody issues, that retainer amount can double. Obviously, each law firm is different and these fees can vary a lot from region to region.

The average divorce attorney charges anywhere from $150 to $400 an hour depending on the region you are in. Divorce mediators can cost just as much.

Take note of the following, every minute of every conversation with your lawyer is being billed. All that small talk your lawyer loves to make is money in the bank for him - your money.

So don't whine and complain to him or waste time talking about how bad you feel because you feel like he's become your friend. He isn't. Your lawyer is not your friend or your therapist. It may feel good to complain to get things off your chest but avoid this at all costs.

He will gladly listen and chew the fat with you but make no mistake, you are paying for each and every minute.

A MAN WHO IS HIS OWN LAWYER HAS A FOOL FOR A CLIENT

All this talk about attorney costs brings up whether you should represent yourself in your divorce? I'm sure that there are a very select few who have successfully divorced while representing themselves.

Believe me, I understand the desire to save money but this line of thinking will likely cost you more in the end. Not to mention the precious time it will take you to learn about all the laws and legal procedures in your state only to end up hiring someone in the end anyway.

You will soon realize that divorcing means ending a legal contract between the both of you. It is the laws of your state along with strong negotiation on division of assets, matters concerning children and an abundance of other topics you are aren't even thinking about now, that are better handled by an expert.

But here's the thing, lawyer's fees can be managed so that you can minimize the billable hours.

Hiring representation should not mean that you become passive and merely sign on the dotted line at the end. You must be an active participant in the process with an expert in law to get the best possible settlement agreement.

You are literally negotiating your financial destiny. This needs to be taken very seriously and unemotionally. Surround yourself with and manage the very best team you can afford.

OTHER LESS OBVIOUS DIVORCE COSTS

One important thing a lot of people fail to consider are the 'other' less obvious costs associated with divorce. It isn't just your lawyer's fees that you have to worry about.

At some point you'll need an accountant to look things over. Your lawyer is smart and can pretty much tell if the numbers look good, but you need an accountant to validate the numbers. An accountant is money well spent, but it's expensive nonetheless.

Private investigators? People to serve subpoenas? Court and filing fees? Copies? Couriers? These services can add to the running tally. Make sure you get an itemized bill each month from your attorney. Don't be afraid to question any items and to ask how you can help mange your bill.

What about rent? How much will your new place cost? You may have to pay 2 to 3 months security just to move in.

Don't forget moving fees, furniture, plates, silverware, cleaning supplies and entertainment money. Don't be fooled. When was the last time you priced out a vacuum cleaner?

THIS ALL ADDS UP TO AN EXPENSIVE SMALL FORTUNE

Once you're divorced you may have to pay alimony and child support.

These expenses are huge! Some people pay alimony for life. Imagine that. It's like buying a car, losing it and paying for it month after month for life.

Some pay alimony for half the amount of years married. It varies greatly and can be negotiated. You may not pay at all. Remember, you know your soon to be ex better than anyone. What do they want? How much do they want it? Leverage their must haves to get your must haves.

Child support is usually another big on going expense. It is usually determined by a formula mandated by each state. Child support is a good thing. It means your kids are being taken care of. It is, however, a big expense you'll need to budget for.

If you are making the child support payments, do not take this responsibility lightly. Failure to pay can affect your credit score and even end you up in jail.

Often you'll have to pay for or contribute to summer camp, after school activities, and college funds.

You may have to pay for childcare on top of child support. How about health care, tutors, braces and after school classes? Pay up.

Get the idea? Oh, and don't forget - you've gotta eat. I told you it would be expensive.

I know this can all be overwhelming. It's enough to make you want to stay. But take it from me. If you are determined and must exit the marriage, you will get through it. We all do. I did and so will you.

This article originally appeared on DivorceCandor.com