The average Australian wedding costs $48,296 according to the 2011 ‘Cost of Love’ survey by Bride to be magazine.
As I sat sipping champagne at my friends ‘above average’ wedding, I wondered if all happy couples entering into the costly affair of matrimonial bliss were aware of the average cost of divorce.
Though I cast no negative aspersions on the beautiful couple whom I saw wed, as I firmly believe they will be the ‘one’ in three relationships, which according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, does not end in divorce or separation. I couldn’t help but reflect on the irony that the average Australian divorce can cost nearly twice as much as the average Australian wedding.
Certainly divorce doesn’t involve the financial extravagance associated with a wedding ceremony such as the food, alcohol, cake and clothing, unless of course one has adopted some slightly indulgent coping mechanisms throughout the process. So why is the average cost of divorce in Australia $30,000 to $40,000 each?
It is a well-known fact in the family law sector that hostility between parties results in funds being swallowed up in avoidable and lengthy court action. Many family lawyers consider that court action should be viewed as the last resort for parties going through a divorce or separation.
Catherine Gale, Director of family law firm Resolve Conflict, comments that “court proceedings can be a very costly and drawn-out process, especially if the former partners are bitter.” According to Catherine, it’s not just the financial cost of undertaking court action that is taxing, but the time and emotional impact associated with the court process.
“The more we can take the emotion out of the process, the more objectively and rationally the parties will be able to negotiate and form a mutually acceptable solution.” Catherine notes however, that achieving this is “understandably difficult for former partners and therefore requires independent parties to help facilitate these negotiations.”
Collaborative law is one such avenue where lawyers can facilitate the couple’s negotiations. Because the lawyers merely act as facilitators of their client’s negotiations, the collaborative process is far more cost effective than a court action divorce as ‘parties have control over the process, and therefore determine the costs.’
Collaborative law enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both the parties and their children and to avoid the uncertain outcome of and expense of court.
Parties enter into the collaborative process without the underlying threat of contested litigation. The couple signs a contract being a “participation agreement”, binding each other to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyer’s right to represent either one in any future family related litigation. Subsequently, collaborative law has a very high resolution rate as parties are encouraged through this agreement to stick to the process they have started.
Recent statistics from research into the effectiveness of collaborative law have been very positive. The survey was based on 933 cases (815 from the U.S., 97 from Canada, and the remainder from England, Australia and Scotland). Staggeringly, 86% of the reported cases settled (with an additional 2% of couples reconciling their marriages).
In Catherine’s recent article The Good Divorce, she urges parties wanting to come through the process without being “financially crippled and still on speaking terms with each other” to seriously consider this option.
Falling in love may be expensive, but falling out of love can be financially devastating. So instead of saving up for your divorce save your money for the more important things in life, like food, cake and clothing.