Currently, in the US, the divorce rate is about 20% (check out this interesting article if you want to understand where the 50% statistic came from). This means that one out of every five marriages will fail, and the financial consequences can be quite severe. Most people have heard about what a divorce costs, but there is much more that goes into the entire relationship than just the breakup. I have attempted to take a comprehensive look at just how much this failed relationship will run you. This is the breakdown of the real cost of divorce.
The vast majority of Americans will date before they are married. While some people date for mere months, and others date for several years, we can safely assume that most people will date for 18 months before they get engaged. During this time they will go on one date per week, for a total of 78 dates. Assuming each date is something similar to dinner and a movie costing a total of $75 each week. That comes to a total of $5,850 for dates prior to engagement. Add in gifts, one-time expenses, and other purchases, and the costs only go up even more.
Most people will want to make sure they buy a nice engagement ring for their partner. Thus the old standard of two to three months salary is how much a man should spend on the ring. In 2013, that comes out to an average of $5,229 just for the ring. Assuming couples are engage for 1 year before the wedding, we must figure in another $3,900 for dates during that time.
Weddings are not cheap. Although many of us say, “Oh my wedding will not be that expensive” or “we are very frugal, and we will have a small cheap wedding” the fact remains that the average wedding costs are about $25,600 including the engagement ring. Take off the $5,229 we have already spent, and we are left spending around $20,000 before anything is spent on the honeymoon.
Statistically speaking, the average length of marriage in the US is 8 years. During this time there will be dates (let’s figure an average of one per month) costing a total of $7,200. There will be birthdays, anniversaries, and vacations. Assuming $3,000 per year for all of those, that’s another $24,000. If children come into the picture there will obviously be even more expenses, but for the sake of simplicity we will assume no children.
By the time 8 years of marriage have passed, a couple will have already invested more than $66,000 into the relationship (most likely far more than that). When divorce is imminent, the numbers increase even more. Basically, it costs the same to get divorced as it does to get married. Divorce cost ranges anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 after you figure in attorney fees, court fees, mediation costs, and readjustment costs. If we use an average amount of $17,500, that brings our total invested in this relationship, start to finish, to $83,500.
While this analysis does ignore the happiness that 10+ years of being with someone will provide, it does bring up a point. As Americans we are willing to spend $17,500 to render our $66,000 investment worthless. Instead of trying to work things out and keep the relationship together, many people take the easy, yet expensive, way out. As an alternative, couples therapy is an option. At an average of $150 per session, a couple could go to therapy every week for 2 years and still not match the real cost of divorce.
Dating and marriage are not cheap, and neither is the real cost of divorce. But if you love someone, or once did love them, it is worthwhile to spend the money making that relationship work rather than spend the money to end it all. Now there are always exceptions, in situations where abuse is taking place (emotional or physical) it is often best to split completely. But for the majority of people who get divorced simply because they do not get along anymore, these people should take a good look before even getting married at what they want out of the relationship. It might be worth saving the heartache and financial impact by not marrying in the first place.