Michael Douglas and the High Cost of Divorce
Ten years after their divorce, Michael Douglas and his ex-wife are back in court, a reminder of the high cost of divorce and encouragement to invest in family harmony.
By Todd McFliker
Lawyers for Michael Douglas and his ex-wife Diandra met in court this week over rights to the earnings of the upcoming sequel to the Academy Award winning Wall Street. The two divorced after 23 years of marriage in 2000, before he wed British actress Catherine Zeta-Jones later that year. Lawyers for the 65-year-old actor said Diandra was entitled only to half the earnings that Douglas made before their 1995 separation.
The high cost of both time and money involved with a divorce can be frightening. Divorce attorneys generally charge $75 to $400 an hour or more. This usually ends up costing families $20,000 to $50,000. In some cases, attorneys charge a flat rate, usually between $10,000 and $25,000 for all aspects of a divorce. An overview of lawyers’ costs and payment arrangements can be found at both SideRoad.com and ConsumerReports.com.
On average, if the couple has children, one parent will pay 20% of income to child support. While there’s a few hundred bucks needed for court filing fees, hiring investigators and experts can add another $2,000 to $7,500 to a couple’s overall bill. In most middle-class dual-income families, the financial responsibilities are split. The same two individuals now have to pay for two homes, electricity, water, phone and cable, let alone thousands in additional childcare expenses that are often vital for single-parent homes.
Except for the wealthiest, saving for vacations and retirement funds are quickly drained. Both work hours and personal time are spent making court appearances, as well as preparing countless legal documents. You’ll have to gather account information, such as banking numbers and mortgage figures to present to your attorney. Then think of the attorneys’ hourly fees to review and evaluate all of this information.
Bank Accounts Can Benefit from Marriage Education
In 2008, the Institute for American Values found that “at least $112 billion” of public costs stem from divorce. “This study documents for the first time that divorce and unwed childbearing – besides being bad for children – are costing taxpayers a ton of money,” said David Blankenhorn, Institute president.
Besides divorcees’ wallets, divorce takes its toll on your body’s sleep, appetite and exercise routine. The drain causes everything from gray hair to high blood pressure. Depression medications are expensive and can have severely negative side-effects. The stress alone can be lethal, whether it comes out on the highway or at a bar.
Impact of Divorce on Children
Then there are the kids of broken marriages. Children of single parent families are three times more likely to be expelled from school than those living with both mom and dad. Young girls from broken homes are more likely to become pregnant as teens as those from intact homes. As an end result, these children are five times more likely to live in poverty and become criminals, generating billions of costs for courts, police and prisons.
In her book, The Divorce Culture, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead analyzes the social significance of divorce. “It is the experience of dependable and durable family bonds that shapes a child’s sense of trust and fosters development of such traits as initiative, independence, and even risk-taking,” Dafoe writes.
With few exceptions, husbands and wives should always try to take the proper steps to preserve their marriage before spending tens of thousands on a divorce and harming your children’s upbringing. With the right resources, couples facing divorce can often transform their relationships. Participating in evidence-based marriage education classes, like those offered by the PAIRS Foundation, can prevent marital breakdown. Before turning to expensive therapists, families experiencing problems can learn to reconnect with each other. Pain and anger can be transformed into love and forgiveness.
The Entire Family Can Benefit from Marriage Education
Each and every day, men and women are realizing the vital importance of relationship skills training. With help of relationship training, both online and in-person, people are finding happiness and fulfillment. Skills taught can bring love and pleasure back into a marriage, making a positive difference in individuals’ lives. “With the proper guidance and good will, people can learn to work together to rise above their problems, using obstacles as stepping stones in their relationship,” says Sara Paez, a Research and Evaluation Analyst at the PAIRS Foundation who is studying the lasting impact of marriage education courses on thousands of South Florida couples and singles.
While not every marrige can or should be saved, resesarch-validated programs deliver proven approaches that have helped many couples overcome crisis. For those who don’t, the experience often delivers greater understanding of what went wrong, how to assure it doesn’t happen again, and skills to co-parent and model healthy relationships.
Too often, the only ones who benefit from families’ lack of marriage education, as well as from the high costs of divorce, are greedy lawyers. And despite what Michael Douglas’ infamous character Gordon Gekko explains, greed is not always good – not when it comes to your family.
A current newlywed, Todd McFliker is an award-winning reporter and the author of All You Need is Love to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. He earned his Masters in Communication from Lynn University.