How To Have A Cheaper Divorce

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Two sets of hands folded on a document to illustrate a piece on how to have a cheaper divorce
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How can I afford to divorce?

A good financial planner will help you pull the levers to see what’s possible, says Shannon Lee Simmons, a financial planner in Toronto. “Look for someone offering unbiased advice only, not selling product.” And you want someone with experience giving emotional support to help you take a holistic view of your current and future situations, she says. (Simmons herself is clear about her qualifications as a life coach on her site. “Ask around for recommendations,” she advises.)

“I have a box of Kleenex on my desk at all times. Sometimes they’re happy tears. It can be such a huge relief to finally talk it through.”

How costly is divorce?

Uncontested divorces are much cheaper than contested ones, and account for eight out of 10 splits in Canada. Even those can get pricey, though, as couples can spend thousands of dollars on legal fees (the average cost is $1,845). Disagree on any issue though, like where the kids will spend their birthdays, and your fees rise by the minute. (The average cost for a contested divorce is over $13,000.) Add in therapy for the kids (and you), moving costs and furnishing a new place, and this split won’t be cheap. But what’s that old joke? Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it.

How to make it work

Tips from Jessica Firestone, a collaborative divorce lawyer in Vancouver.

As painful as it may be, you need to truly listen to the other person. “They’re going to have feelings and opinions that are as valid as your own.”


Have an open mind. Thoughts like “I have to keep the house” or “The kids can’t stay with him overnight” may need to be challenged, she says. “Ask yourself, ‘What would be so bad?’”

Amicable and mutual are two words that are rare in a split, so finding the right pace is key. The partner who instigated the breakup has had a lot of time to think it through. “Sometimes, we need to pause to let the other person catch up. This process can only go as quickly as the slowest partner.”

It never hurts to ask. “I encourage people to find out what’s possible by talking to your bank or financial advisor. Many times they’ll say, ‘Oh, I can’t afford to buy him out.’ But you might be pleasantly surprised.”

Be willing to see this as an opportunity. “This could be a wonderful thing for the kids. You can even enjoy your kids more. With time and support, you’ll be able to see opportunities and embrace them when they come along. It’s not divorce that is harmful for children, it’s conflict. When each parent feels happier as an individual, the kids are happier, too.”