I really hate to say this, but just the other day a judge told me “he who holds the gold has control.” It is sad but true, you may want your day in court, but can you afford it? Not many can– at least not without some help. If significant sums of cash are not readily available to you, and you don’t have a Line of Credit and can’t borrow from family or friends, where are you going to come up with the $10,000 or more required as a typical litigation retainer? I’ve seen many cash out their 401(k)s or IRAs in order to finance their divorce or custody disputes, and every day I see people settle in order to avoid digging a deeper financial hole for themselves. These are not very appealing options to say the least.
There is a reason married men like to jokingly say, “it is cheaper to keep her.” A litigated divorce that is hotly contested is simply not cheap– you are paying for legal services by the hour, and the average rates for a good attorney in DC will range from $300-600 per hour. Custody evaluations start at $15,000 if you are using a private expert vs. the court services. Vocational experts and business valuation experts also work by the hour and with retainers starting at least with $5,000. If your child needs to have his/her own attorney, that is yet another expense that is usually pro-rated among the parties. I will skip the full range of experts available, but hopefully you can start to see how easily the bills rack up.
Earlier this month, Good Morning America presented a story about a financial firm in NY that lends money to women going through a divorce. Based on the assets involved, the bank can loan an individual up to $250,000 to cover not just attorney’s fees, but also living expenses while the litigation is pending. These are like short-term bridge loans, with interest rates ranging from about 8-20% Obviously clients need to really do their homework to make sure this is the best option for them, but I definitely see this as a growing trend.
It was an honor to be able to contribute to this piece, and for those who missed the GMA segment, here is the link:
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.