Advice helps trim the tab for divorce

During a divorce, one thing in particular blind-sides people:

"The cost," said Debra Braselton, a family law attorney in Oakbrook Terrace. "They simply don't expect it.

"Take the average uncontested case, in which people are in complete agreement," she said. "It will cost $2,500 in DuPage County. A full-blown custody battle that might take three years would cost at least $50,000, and that's cheap. In the normal semi-contested situation, I would say it costs $10,000 to $15,000 and takes about a year."

Costs likely would be similar in surrounding counties, she said.

Add that to the potentially devastating emotional cost of divorce and you've got one rocky situation. For that reason, Braselton and other professionals have formed LEAVES--or Legal, Emotional and Various Economic Services--a non-profit group that aims to educate people who are contemplating or going through a divorce. Members include lawyers, financial analysts and therapists.

The group has a full-day seminar Jan. 29 in Oak Brook, which will touch on everything from children's expenses to divorce coaches to collaborative law, which Braselton calls "the wave of the future."

In a collaborative divorce, the sides have disputes but seek a reasonable agreement. Each person hires a separate, specially trained attorney, and the two sides get together to work things out without court intervention (for more information, go to www.collablawil.org). Other professionals might join the team to deal with financial, parenting or emotional issues. The goal is to cut down on stress and costs.

"It's about a third less expensive" than the typical contested divorce, Braselton said.

The Divorce SOS event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Renaissance Hotel in Oak Brook, is $75 and includes a catered lunch. LEAVES says the seminar is strictly educational, with no sales pitches. To make a reservation, call 800-569-5371.