The cost of a divorce is invariably related to you and your spouse’s lifestyle. However, no matter what lifestyle you have, how rich you are or how long you have been married, there are some things that you can do to reduce the cost of divorce. First, and foremost, remember that your divorce attorney and you are a team. You need to function that way. In other words, there are things you can do to actively participate in the development of your case that will save you money.
Be a Team Player and Actively Participant in Your Case.
Rather than have your attorney’s legal assistant charge for tasks of gathering up documents and organizing them in response to a discovery request propounded from your soon to be former spouse, you gather the documents and get them organized in the manner and format in which they were requested. In addition, you should understand the process thoroughly. Learn about your rights, spouse support, child support, etc. Gather more info here about divorce and how presence matters in the case. Confer with your attorney’s legal assistant as to their organization preference.
Be an Efficient Communicator.
Think about how you communicate with your attorney and their staff. If you have questions that can be directed to the legal assistant ask them and not your attorney, whose hourly charges are likely several times that of their legal assistant. Additionally, use email to communicate on topics that do not require verbal communications. This method is less intrusive to the flow of a work day and will likely get you just as timely a response.
Organize your thoughts and transmittals into a consolidated email message, rather than numerous individual messages. Numerous individual messages are not only disruptive during the day, but can also result in a delayed response. If it’s an emergency, then call the office directly but don’t “cry the emergency wolf” routine if it isn’t really urgent.
Reduce the Animosity Between You and Your Spouse.
Think hard about what’s really important to you, and fight for those things in your divorce. Minimize infusing your case with unnecessary emotions. Obviously, contested custody cases are emotional and may involve issues of substance abuse and physical and emotional abuse which you cannot avoid. However, realize that emotionally charged allegations polarize the parties in the case.
At some point, if both sides desire to reach an agreement, then both sides will need to confront the issues and be willing to explore creative options for resolution. If you can reach an agreement that neither side is ecstatic about but can live with, then that is probably a good compromise and far better than the expense of trying the case in front of a judge or jury. If you can avoid taking your divorce to court, you’ll spend less and have room for creativity in reaching an agreement with your former spouse.
Effectively Identify and Value the Assets Within Your Marriage.
The sooner you can identify the major assets and debts of your estate, arrive at a value of those items and determine whether the assets are community property subject to being divided, or separate property not subject to being divided, the better off you’ll be financially.
Avoid the added cost of forensic accountants, who are often required in divorces with large asset portfolios, when one spouse wants to convince the court that it’s actually separate property, or want to claim reimbursement for expenses paid on behalf of the other spouse. If you want to claim property as yours do a cost benefit analysis and determine if the claim justifies the expense to pursue it.
Hire an Experienced Divorce Attorney.
This may sound counterintuitive, but experienced lawyers can work with you to effectively navigate the courts, and assist you in narrowing the issues and make a determination of the viability of any claims you might fight for. Attorneys with experience often have good and established rapport with judges, and can advise you more effectively than hiring a lawyer who advertises their practice as a “cheap divorce attorney”.
Fault Grounds, Infidelity and Substance Abuse.
It runs along the same lines as getting a speeding ticket. If you get a speeding ticket, it will cost you some money. If you get a speeding ticket when you’ve been out drinking with friends, it’s probably going to cost you a lot more. When extramarital affairs are known or issues of alcohol or prescription drug abuse are known, those issues have to be presented to a judge for the protection of children or for other reasons. It will increase the cost of your divorce. If you have any of these issues it’s best to deal with them prior to filing for divorce or early in the proceedings.
Stay Local. Don’t Run Off with the Kids. Don’t Move Out of State.
If you want to have a low-cost divorce, keep a level head and don’t make important decisions in haste. Don’t take off with the children and hide from your spouse, or preclude them from seeing the children. In rare cases, this may be justified, but you better hire a lawyer right away and proceed with filing for divorce.
Simply seeking your remedy of protection without filing for divorce and getting the protection of a court order does not accomplish much. It doesn’t protect you or your children, and can backfire as your spouse may seek custody based on your actions of secluding the children from them.
Your divorce doesn’t have to follow the path of the rich and famous in Hollywood. If you apply common sense and make every effort to work effectively with your divorce attorney, you can dissolve your marriage at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner.
Luckily, I won’t be needing this any time soon. Happily married for 27 years