Just like children and snowflakes, every divorce is different. One fact is true across the board though: the more litigious the divorce, the more expensive it will be. Each attorney will generally take a retainer prior to commencing service. The size of that retainer will depend on the complexity of the case. That retainer is used to pay for services as they are rendered. The more work that is done on a case, the more of the retainer will be used. New Jersey law permits a court to order one party to pay a retainer on behalf of the other for expert and/or legal services when the respective financial circumstances of the parties make the award reasonable and just. In making this decision, a court will review the financial capacity of each party to conduct the litigation and consider the pertinent criteria for awarding counsel fees that are set forth by court rule. Courts can also order parties to take home equity loans on homes or loans against retirement assets in order to pay for retainers for attorneys and/or experts. While each litigated case will vary in cost, the costs will be high because of the nature of litigation.
Various methods of alternative dispute resolution are a way to keep the costs of a divorce down. These different methods include mediation and collaborative divorce, or arbitration if the case needs to be tried. Each of these methods will reduce the amount of long, drawn-out court appearances that are oftentimes ineffective in truly moving a case along. They will provide a mechanism for parties to work together to achieve a fair resolution of their case, which, in turn, will serve to minimize excessive costs in a divorce.
Heidi Ann Lepp is a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney in Warren, New Jersey and a partner with the law firm of Shimalla, Wechsler, Lepp & D’Onofrio, LLP.