Divorce can be an expensive process requiring parties to spend money on lawyers, experts, court costs, and other expenses. In some cases, the high cost can even be a deterrent to getting a divorce as couples choose to stay together rather than incur the expense. However, there are ways to save money without sacrificing quality legal representation or giving into unreasonable financial demands.
- Choose alternative dispute resolution. Typically, litigation is the most time-consuming and costly process to settle divorce matters. Instead, couples should consider Mediation and Collaborative Divorce (“ADR Alternatives”) as a way to control expenses as well as achieve a more satisfying end-result. With both of these alternative options, trained professionals work with the parties to facilitate conversation and find common ground for meaningful settlements.
- Organize your financial documents. Gather all your financial documents so you are prepared to talk with your attorney, including bank, retirement and investment accounts, loans, credit card balances, insurance policies, wills, trusts, deeds/title certificates, tax returns, business records, pay stubs, etc. You should have at least the last three years’ worth of all rec In addition, track your household expenses so you understand where money is being spent and consider how these may change once you have separate households. This information is useful in settlement discussions as well as in creating a post-divorce budget. Having this material organized for the attorney saves you from paying for the attorney’s time to do this work.
- Consult several attorneys. The point is not to find the cheapest lawyer; it is to pick the right one. Ask for recommendations from other people to find an attorney who has ADR experience, is honest with clients about the prospects of their case, who communicates effectively with clients and opponents, and is focused on finding solutions. Your attorney should also be open about the costs and explain what is included and not included in his/her services.
- Prepare an agenda or list of questions every time you plan to communicate with the attorney. In the same way you organize your financial records, you should think through and document your concerns in writing. This is beneficial since it ensures you won’t forget anything and helps to keep the focus on the purpose of the call or meeting, which saves time and money in legal fees.
- Divorce requires legal and emotional support. The Collaborative Divorce Process offers clients both professional legal and emotional support which fosters a settlement culture and avoids exacerbating hostilities. It is precisely this team approach which provides an extremely desirable alternative to litigation.
- Be willing to compromise. While an attorney can advise you about your options, you must carefully weigh the legal and emotional costs involved for yourself and family.
Couples have the power to minimize many divorce costs if they consider these points. If you are thinking about divorce, contact me for a consultation to discuss the best divorce process for your case.