How Much Will My Divorce Cost?

Divorce in New York can be simple or complicated depending mostly on the parties and their lawyers’ negotiation skills (and not on the number of children or the size of their holdings).

If a party is feeling aggrieved

Parties can get divorced without feeling aggrieved, angry, betrayed, or vengeful. A person can realize that the partner for whom they’ve had such high hopes is incapable of satisfying their needs. Likewise, a person can realize that they cannot provide their partner with what their partner so crucially needs. People who clear-headedly recognize this can agree to divorce with no feelings of malice or ill-will from one to another. In fact, the divorce is then healthy and, if each person wants to give and receive only what is fair to both themselves and the other, the divorce can be negotiated quickly and easily, even if there are children and complicated finances. The parties can remain best friends, in fact, can become better friends now that they’ve removed the irritants between them, and can go on to be the loving, caring parents they want to be to their mutual children.

Where a party is feeling aggrieved, however, the entire divorce can become extremely complicated. The person’s ill-will infects every issue and every negotiation. Every minor issue becomes a heated battle, with no quarter given. We have therefore found that if we can help our clients heal and if we can facilitate our client’s spouse’s healing then the parties are more apt to approach negotiations in an open-minded manner, willing to listen to reasonable proposals. That sets the scene to have productive negotiation in which both of the parties get better results than either of them could have otherwise had. (See “Divorce Without Destruction” outlining how to achieve win-win resolutions.)

The Easiest Possible Solution

The easiest divorce is where the parties get wise, experienced lawyers.

I tell my clients that the worst thing that can happen to you, is to have your spouse get an unskilled lawyer. The lawyers who don’t know what they’re doing, don’t know how to evaluate a case. They don’t know what is a real argument with a chance of success, and what is an out-of-the-ballpark argument that has no chance of succeeding. As a result, a party whose spouse has an incompetent lawyer ends up with a lot more aggravation, and spending a lot more money, refuting arguments that have no legitimate basis in law or fact.

But, where each spouse has a wise lawyer the parties and their lawyers can sit down across the table and hash things out. Whenever I mediate a dispute I first turn to the defendant and say, “Mr. [Smith,] I take you to be a man of integrity and honesty. Can I assume that if you legitimately, honestly and fairly owe the plaintiff money that you would want to pay any money you legitimately, honestly and fairly owe?” The defendant invariably agrees. I then turn to the plaintiff and ask a version of that same question: “Mr. [Jones,] I take you to be a man of integrity and honesty. Can I assume that if you are not legitimately, honestly and fairly owed money, that you would not want to take such money?” Invariably the plaintiff agrees. I then ask the plaintiff, “Okay, tell us why you believe you are legitimately, honestly and fairly owed the money you seek.”

Thus, when negotiating a divorce, I welcome the opportunity to sit down with opposing counsel and the spouse they are representing and say “We want a result that is fair to your party and fair to mine. Let’s talk about what is fair under these circumstances.” This complies with the teaching of Professors Fisher, Ury and Patton of the Harvard Program on Negotiation and in their groundbreaking book “Getting to Yes.” This is principled negotiation rather than positional bargaining. Here the negotiation can heal the parties rather than harm them.

If the parties have achieved healing from their wounds, and with wise counsel at their side, they can usually achieve a fair result, one that allows each of them to achieve what is most important to them (known as a “win-win resolution”–where neither side has to lose), that is much better than anything either of them could have achieved through an adversarial process. (See my prior writing on Game Theory and how parties can win more by being cooperative than by being adversarial in my New York Law Journal article “Divorce Without Destruction.”)

Once a deal is reached, the deal can be memorialized in a separation agreement and/or a stipulation of settlement. Both parties sign and have notarized the required documents and the lawyers file them with the court for processing in due time. With this process, neither the parties nor the lawyers need to appear in court, saving themselves the angst, time, aggravation, and cost of appearing in court and proceeding through the laborious litigation system. This is known colloquially as an “uncontested divorce” in which both parties agree to the outcome and agree that a judgment of divorce should be issued and the terms upon which it should be issued.

Divorce As A Healing Process


The Nightmare Scenario (and it doesn’t depend on the amount of money!)

People often assume that if there’s more money there’s more fighting and that if there’s less money there’s less fighting. Nothing can be further from the truth. Our nastiest, most drawn-out case was one where the parties barely had a pot to . . . relieve themselves in. The husband worked as a gas station attendant earning about $3.50/hour; the wife was a custodial worker, cleaning a local parochial school. When they separate, the husband told the wife, “You keep one television set and I’ll take the other,” to which she screamed back, “Oh, no, you don’t! My mother’s getting the second television.” They fought over everything and it was long, nasty, bitter and expensive. So the time and cost of a divorce are dependent on the parties’ ability to heal from the wounds of the severed relationship, and the ability of each to give the other the respect and dignity of ending their relationship with integrity and caring.



To learn more about this or another topic relating to divorce and family law, check out our free New York Divorce Guides or call us today at (212) 964-6100!

Contact a skilled New York City divorce negotiator today!

Of course, you will need a skilled lawyer to guide, protect, and defend you and your rights. Call our offices for a free telephone consultation and to learn how we can help you. A Manhattan Family Law Attorney at Chaim Steinberger, P.C. can give you a solid foundation for meeting your goals during divorce, legal separation, annulment, and more.