3. But clients are what truly make it expensive.
Why? Because clients are idiots. Seriously. It's not their fault though. Divorce is emotional and they make bad decisions.
For example, divorce cases are rarely about money. 99% of the time we all know approximately what the assets and debts are. Again, high 90%s, there are a few assets and a few debts. Only in the headlines are divorces about assets and debts.
A good attorney almost always knows approximately the breakdown the Court will use. It's almost always now splitting "marital assets" and "marital debts" in half with the exception of sometimes giving the primary parent use of the house if there isn't too much equity. Its insanely rare that we have to track down assets with private investigators. That's more for tabloid journalism and movies. So if we know the assets and debts, we can generally say what will happen in Court.
And even then, if a party still wants to fight, Court costs are low to fight over debts and assets because there aren't many arguments for dividing them other than equally. So Court is usually short with few witnesses. If the assets are worth a lot, then Court costs might be slightly higher but still a tiny tiny fraction of the assets value.
BUT WE HAVE A PROBLEM. Asset and Debt fights CAN become expensive because Clients can be stupid. Remember, divorce is emotional. Clients have are absolutely convinced the other party is hiding assets and want to be sure they aren't getting screwed. I've seen clients blow $10,000 fighting over a business worth $3,000. It's obscene. When a client demands we do fully Discovery, it gets incredibly expensive. Going through stacks of bank statements from the past 5 or 10 years or reviewing medical records can raise costs pretty high. But some clients demand it and we aren't allowed to say no.
4. Kids make divorces expensive.
The usual fight is NOT over assets and debts. What drives up costs are kids. People fight over custody...a lot. And that is expensive.
Remember, the Lawyer only gets a snapshot of the family situation. The Court gets a snapshot of a snapshot. So clients want to put into evidence absolutely everything they can. And they always have a million stories. But this is inherently difficult to prove in Court.
If we are arguing over a credit card debt, all I need is a current statement or a single sentence to tell the Court how much is owed. Same goes for most assets. Even if we disagree over the value of a house, a realtor can testify in 20 minutes.
But with kids.... it's all these factors and stories without simple proof. Johnny is doing poorly in school? So we need to have the teacher testify about Johnny doing poorly. Now both parents blame the other. Mom has to spend 2 hours talking about homework not getting down when Johnny is with Dad and show emails, text messages, and school records. Dad will do the same. And we'll call a witness or two to talk about seeing Johnny study with Dad. And that's ONE aspect of the custody battle.
Each party wants to win. So each party calls numerous witnesses and puts out any evidence it can showing what they are claiming is true despite the other side's story.
And ALL of this has to be prepped ahead of time. Its usually two hours of prep for every hour in Court.
CUSTODY battles in Divorces are what make them expensive day in and day out. And that isn't the fault of lawyers. It's parties and the nature of a system that demands proof (rightly or wrongly).