One thing that cannot be counted on is the continued support of someone's in-laws in divorce. They could, for instance, decide to stop paying for a grandchild's private school.
But these discussions assume that there is money to negotiate over. Michelle Smith, a certified divorce financial analyst and the chief executive of Source Financial Advisors, said she had seen situations where a spouse recalls seeing a brokerage statement for $15 million. But it turns out there is $11 million of loans against that account and the house they live in is mortgaged to the hilt.
"It's this onion that needs to be peeled back slowly," she said. "I say to these people, 'I can't do financial planning for you during your divorce that you never did during your marriage.'"
When it comes to child support, states generally have formulas, too. In New York, for example, one child receives 17 percent of the salary of the parent who doesn't have custody, two get 25 percent, three 29 percent — though wealthier couples can opt out and negotiate separately.
The trickier part is when it comes to private school. No judge is going to say private school is a requirement for a child, though there can be exceptions, for example, if the children have been in a school most of their lives and are close to finishing.
Even with the standardization of some aspects of divorce, the right strategy matters. Ms. Chemtob said she regularly looks for the most desirable place to file a divorce suit, a process known as forum shopping.
"Whether I have the in-the-money or the out-of-the-money spouse, I'll decide which county to file in," she said. "The Hamptons are horrible for the nonmoney spouse, so I'd file in New York City. If you're seeking distributions of assets or distributions of a business, you want to be in New York City. You don't want to be in Westchester."
There are four options in a state like New York for the style of divorce: do-it-yourself, mediation (where the couple is alone with a mediator), collaboration (where a group of neutral parties help the process along) and traditional litigation that may end in court.
Ms. Smith pointed to situations that may require a lawyer with particular expertise. If, for example, a wife helped her husband build the family business but did not go into office each day, she needs a lawyer who can get her the largest share of that business.
On the other hand, if a husband benefited throughout his marriage from a trust set up by his family, he will want a lawyer who can try to keep that money outside the divorce negotiations, while the wife will want one who can get that money considered.
"It's a fact pattern," Ms. Smith said. "You need to find the right strategists. You don't want to spend $1 million on litigation and you don't have the right strategy for your fact pattern."