They say freedom is priceless, and yet when you are contemplating a divorce, there are some pretty significant costs to consider before calling it quits, unless you are economically on par with couples like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  Here are the top 3 expenses you must budget for when contemplating a separation:

1. Family Support– Whether you have to pay any alimony or child support is an important factor to consider when looking to establish a realistic budget in separate households.  These legal obligations can significantly impact your choice in housing, which is usually the biggest line item on a person’s budget.

2. Housing– Are you on the mortgage or a joint lease with your spouse?  If so, can you continue to contribute towards that obligation while also paying rent for yourself somewhere else?  You cannot just assume that the other person will pay 100% of the mortgage or rent, and if that person chooses not to do so, you are not just putting your credit at risk, but also exposing yourself to litigation with a lender or landlord.

3. Attorney’s Fees–  The national average is about $250/hour for a family law attorney, but those rates can drastically vary depending on the lawyer’s level of experience and your geographic location.  There is also a wide range in court filing fees, and if you have to pursue a contested case you could be looking at a process that takes anywhere from 11-18 months with a price tag of about $20,000 per party based on national averages.

There are obviously other costs that have nothing to do with money that we all need to consider, including our health and well-being, as well as the safety of our children.  It is of no surprise to me that 6 out of the last 7 cases I took to trial recently were all about custody.  None of these parents believed they should stay together, and their arguments were not over money, but rather the disputes were centered on the time each should have with the children and how major decisions affecting the children should be made.

Hopefully, Brad and Angelina will work out their custody issues soon.  Here’s what I would say to all divorcing parents, not just them:  When you do have kids together, try to focus on what is in their best interests.  Let your love for them guide you in finding some common ground.  If you can put your children’s needs before your own, you should be able to work with the input of experienced professionals on a Parenting Plan that provides a consistent schedule and promotes a healthy relationship with each parent.  Remember, these little ones are your greatest legacy, and they deserve your best efforts to minimize the negative impacts of a divorce.

Once you have worked out a Custody Agreement, the rest should fall into place.  No one should have to stay in a toxic environment or a loveless marriage that is soul-crushing.  Like they say, where there is a will, there is a way.  You can always work with a financial planner to reduce expenses, find ways to increase your income, or temporarily tap into your savings or credit to balance a budget for two households.

Freedom does have a price, especially when you no longer wish to wait until death to part with your spouse.  The real question is what’s it worth to you?   Only you can answer that.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.