Is it Cheaper to Keep HIM? How much does divorce cost?

Posted on Feb 12, 2013 by Katie Carter

In a divorce, everything gets divided, down to the can opener and the welcome mat. Everything that you’ve earned or purchased during the marriage is marital property, and each of you has an interest in those assets. Not only assets, but in divorce you’ll also share the debt accumulated during the marriage.

Are there exceptions? Of course there are. Anything you owned prior to marriage is an exception, and so is anything you received separately as a gift or inheritance from someone other than your husband. (The diamond earrings he gave you are marital property; the diamond earrings your granddad gave you are separate.) Still, in most marriages, there are a lot of things to be divided. Big things, like retirement accounts and real property, are usually handled simply. Retirement accounts are equalized, so both parties walk away with roughly the same amount in retirement savings. For real property, one party or the other buys out the other’s interest and refinances (to remove the non-owning ex-spouse from the deed or title and mortgage). For smaller things, like personal property, you’re better off if you can come to some agreement on your own. It’s silly to pay an attorney’s hourly rate to fight over pieces of property that really just aren’t worth much. Flip a coin; trust me, it works.

So, is it cheaper to keep him? That’s a difficult question to answer. Financially, divorce is rarely advantageous. But you probably knew that already. What you own will be split. Proportionally, that means about the same thing for just about everyone—you’ll walk away with roughly half of what you had before, but you’ll have to maintain your own separate household on that amount without a second contributing income.

Will you have to pay support? Well, it’s stereotypical, but fewer men than women ask for support. Still, it’s a possibility, as long as your income is significantly larger than his. If he makes more than you or if your incomes are roughly the same, he will not qualify for spousal support.

What about child support? That’s based entirely on a formula. Again, speaking stereotypically, in the majority of cases, moms have the kids most of the time. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that most moms have primary physical custody. Still, child support is a formula, based on both parent’s incomes and the amount of time that they have with the child. Depending on whether you have primary physical or shared physical custody, it affects how much you’ll receive (or have to pay) in support. There are a number of child support calculators online that can help give you a good idea about what he (or you) will have to pay in child support.

Still, I haven’t answered the question. Is it cheaper to keep him? If we’re discussing this from a purely financial standpoint, probably no. It’s probably much cheaper to stay married than it is to get a divorce. But is that something you can live with? Obviously, something has brought you here, which strongly points to the fact that something just isn’t right. Ultimately, you’ll have to ask yourself. What will it cost you to get divorced? “Cost” is financial, but it also relates to a lot of other things—self-esteem, happiness, contentment, security, and emotional stability, among others. I guess the question becomes not what it will cost you to get divorced, but what it will cost you to stay. Only you know the answer to that question.

For more information on pre and post divorce finances, and what you can do to help make good financial decisions even during divorce, read my blogs: Financial First Steps; Our Money: how divorce is different when you earn more than your husband; and Yours, Mine, Ours: What's Separate in a Marriage?