With the average cost of divorce now anywhere from $15,000.00 to $30,000.00, it seems that in this day and age it costs as much to get divorced as it does to get married.
When you’re already dealing with a stressful and anxiety-ridden situation, it makes sense to lessen the pain to yourself and your children by at least trying to reduce this devastating financial burden. Here are some ways to keep the cost of your divorce down:
Here are 10 ways to keep the cost of your divorce down
1. Know your assets and debts
A lot of people would not be aware of all of the things which could be considered an asset when it comes to the division of marital property. There are the obvious things such as real estate, cars, and bank accounts. However, there may also be investments, pensions, life insurance policies and stock options, to name a few. When it comes to debts, make sure you know what you owe and to whom - for both you and your ex. If your ex handles the finances, you may need to do a bit of investigative work. You may also be able to obtain a copy of your credit report. Do the groundwork here to save valuable time and money later!
2. Prioritize the issues
Before hiring an attorney, make a list of your priorities for the divorce. Identify what you are not prepared to do without, and likewise what you think you can let go of. Think about what you and your ex can amicably agree on. Doing this will keep your costs down whilst you are negotiating later, as only the issues that you absolutely know you won’t be able to agree on will need to be brought to Court.
3. Come to agreement with your ex on as many issues as possible
Next, go over the essentials such as child support and custody, and the division of your joint assets and debts, with your ex. The more you can come to agreement on, the lower your attorney’s bills will be. Of course, this may be difficult if you’re dealing with a personality disordered ex, but some basic discussions here will help greatly in reducing the cost of divorce.
4. Do your own ground and administrative work
This can apply to both before and after hiring an attorney. Learn all that you can about your State’s divorce laws - go online, research and access any forms or documents that you think you may need. Make your own copies of important documents. Make phone calls yourself, rather than paying your attorney to do this. Anything you can do yourself by cutting out the middleman will give you both a sense of satisfaction and save you some dollars.
5. Choose an attorney carefully
A lot of attorneys will offer a free initial consultation – take advantage of this as it will give you the chance to appraise and decide whether or not they fit with what you are looking for. Don’t always assume that the most expensive attorney is the best – or that the cheaper option is the worst. Attorneys charge depending on their expertise and experience. An attorney who charges more all-around as an expert in something that you don’t need is not a good investment. Word of mouth and recommendations can be good here – I chose my attorney on the recommendation of two close friends who had used her previously, with success.
6. Attorneys charge for their time – think before you call!
Try to keep your costs down by dealing with your attorney in a cost efficient manner. Be savvy – if you can solve or do something simple yourself, do it. This might be mailing a letter, making copies of documents or researching answers to common issues or queries online. Keep a list of anything that you feel that you do need to speak with him or her about and do it all in the one call. Email time may be cheaper than telephone time, so consider this as an option. Also, you may be able to bounce questions and ideas off the paralegal or secretary – a much cheaper option than using the attorney’s time for every little thing.
7. Keep track of what you are paying – review your monthly invoice
This is important – you may believe that mistakes could not possibly be made on such an important issue, but they can! I recall being charged for an item I was previously told I would not need to pay for – a simple clerical error as it turned out, but one that could have cost me several hundred dollars had I not looked at the invoice properly. Also, a quick analysis of your first invoice will show you where your money is being spent, and hence where you can maybe make some cuts – ie your telephone calls and emails, as per the point above.
8. Don’t fret and obsess over the unimportant stuff
As we now know, when it comes to divorce, time is money! Basically, if something is not that important to you, don’t spend the time or the money fighting for it. Divorce is a time of heightened emotions, and it can be all too easy to get carried away fighting a battle that actually has little meaning to you. Try to keep a level head. Concentrate on the big ticket items (children, property) and leave the little things alone. Remember, nobody ever wins everything in a divorce case.
9. Keep detailed records of everything
Anything that may be even a teensy bit relevant to your case should be kept. Not just kept, but filed in an orderly manner for easy reference at any time. This would include correspondence from your attorney, as well as any important documents, financial or otherwise, pertaining to your marriage. It may also include any of your own notes and research. Having everything within easy reach will save you time and money later on as requests for information already provided to you will not be an issue. Make sure you carefully read any correspondence from your attorney before filing away.
10. Think outside the box
If you and your ex are on good terms and can agree on most things, you may want to consider a Do-It-Yourself divorce. You would need to contact your local courthouse to enquire further on this option. Or, if possible, you could hire an attorney to handle part (but not all) of your divorce. A mediator may also be a viable option to save on Court costs. Consider though how amicable you and your ex are before contemplating any of these options – a high conflict situation would be best handled from start to finish by an attorney. Good luck.