Getting a Divorce -- Ways to Reduce
Your Costs in a Divorce
NOTE: This article about getting a divorce is for general informational purposes and should not be construed to be legal advice. Consult with an attorney about your particular legal situation.
When you're getting a divorce, the cost and the accompanying stress can take a huge toll. Unfortunately for most, one of the biggest reasons for the stress is the change in financial circumstances that people in this situation face. On top of the necessary split in what was formerly a combined household, there are attorney’s fees. These fees can be well-spent if you are trying to navigate the legal world in a time of uncertainty and change. For most, however, spending the maximum amount on getting a divorce isn’t what you want to do—you want to save that money for your (and possibly, your children’s) future. How, then, can you help decrease your divorce costs?
· Assemble all the information you can about your and your spouse’s finances. If you and your spouse are still able to have a rational conversation, try discussing, together, what those finances are. If not, do your best to gather as much information as possible yourself. This information includes not only assets such as a home, bank accounts, cars, retirement, etc., but also your debt—credit cards, loans, and all types of monthly payments. It is also important to be clear about who is currently responsible for any payments on debts. The more information you are able to come up with from the beginning, the less work your attorney will need to do for you to gather it. Caveat: if one of your biggest concerns is that your spouse has hidden assets, this is an extremely important piece of information you need to tell your attorney right away—and you need to write down or assemble information about any basis for why you have this feeling.
· Don’t mistake your lawyer for your friend, or your psychologist. Your relationship with your attorney will be, through necessity, close in a certain sense—you will be disclosing highly personal information to this person. No matter how much you like your attorney on a personal level (or don’t), your lawyer’s primary concern is to get you through the legal maze of divorce. It is not, nor should it be, to counsel you, other than legally. Most attorneys have resources that they can refer you to if that is what you need. Remember—you are paying fees based on your attorney’s time, and when you use that time for non-legal matters you are increasing your costs when you're getting a divorce. If you need non-legal help, you probably can get it for less cost elsewhere.
· Make sure to cover the details. I often have clients that come to me, post-divorce, because they, their attorney, or the opposing attorney came up with a divorce agreement or judgment that doesn’t adequately address the issues. Sometimes it is impossible to anticipate every event, but an experienced divorce attorney will be familiar with the many situations that usually arise. Also, you need to make sure you read and understand your judgment of divorce before it goes before the judge. If you don’t understand it now, what makes you think you will later? This is a prime area where your money will be well spent in hiring someone who will assist you in coming up with a comprehensive document.
· Get real(istic). Many people have a lot of misconceptions about what happens in a divorce, from people they talk to that have been through one, or have a friend (relative, business associate) that went through one. The reality is, every situation is different, and just because something happened to one person does not mean it can or will happen to you. We all hear stories about how someone “got nothing” in a divorce, or how they got “taken to the cleaners.” Maybe that happened, maybe it didn’t—and if it did, maybe there were reasons why. For these reasons, listen to your attorney and their assessment of what is realistic for your situation.
· Don’t let your-or your spouse’s-- emotions rule your decision making. Yes, this is easier said than done. Whether it is your choice, your spouse’s choice, or a joint decision in getting a divorce, there are very few people who don’t feel some sort of strong emotion regarding the situation. Where that can be detrimental to you, from a financial standpoint, is when you allow that emotion to make your decisions, because it often leads to an increased level of confrontation between the parties. When that happens, you are faced with a longer process and much higher divorce cost and legal bills. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but you must be aware that the more conflict you and/or your spouse bring into the divorce process, the longer it will take and the more legal bills you will both incur—thus leaving less money for either of you at the end.
If you're getting a divorce, cost is something you can’t avoid—even if its only for the filing fees involved. Being aware of the ways that you can decrease your divorce costs, however, is of paramount concern to almost every person considering or going through a divorce. Having a well-qualified attorney assisting you can help you immensely—but you can also make a difference as to the ultimate outcome.
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