10 Steps You Can Take To Minimize the Cost of Your Divorce
You’ve heard it before: Divorce is emotionally and financially strenuous. Unfortunately, there is no denying that the breakup of a marriage is traumatic – but your divorce doesn’t have to drain your wallet, too. We understand that it can be difficult to think about money in the midst of your divorce, however taking the steps outlined in this article can help you limit your legal expenses and safeguard your financial future.
Organization, or the lack thereof, can lead to a drastic difference in what one individual might spend in legal fees compared to another during a divorce. One of the very first steps you can take before consulting with an attorney is organizing your documents, your finances and your thoughts. By doing so, you will be able to get the answers you need – while using your attorney’s billable hours more efficiently.
Many people do not want to take the time to organize their text messages, emails, etc. and this is often a costly mistake. Simply organizing your documents and scanning them onto a USB before handing them over to your attorney generally reduces your legal expenses. The easier it is to access your personal and financial information, the more likely you are to save time, reduce stress and limit unnecessary lawyer’s fees.
Take Control of Your Finances – All of Them.
Clients often ask their attorneys to obtain and organize their financial documents; however, this tendency creates more billable hours. You can limit the discovery time your attorney will bill you for by making a list of all of your financial assets, a statement of your net worth, and a monthly budget before your initial consultation. After all, you should be in the best position to address your finances, and doing so will likely reduce your legal expenses.
Contact Legal Assistants and Paralegals First.
Paralegals and legal assistants can assist with many of your needs – and they bill at lower hourly rates, making them your best “go-to” option. Undoubtedly, there will be times where you will need the assistance of your attorney; however, paralegals and legal assistants can provide you with court dates, case status and updates, copies and/or any other documents you may need.
Learn to Compromise.
Learning to compromise during your divorce is extremely important. While compromise is not always possible, we encourage our clients to reach agreements with their spouses on personal property and household items. When you cannot reach an agreement, we advise that you assess the value of the items in dispute. The cost of a $500 couch can easily triple when disputed during trial.
Consider Marriage Counseling.
If one party is interested in staying in the marriage, we encourage you to seek counseling services. We understand that most individuals have already explored and exhausted this resource; nonetheless, if you can work to save your marriage – you will also save yourself the costly expenses associated with a divorce.
Consider Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Trials are undeniably expensive endeavors: emotionally and financially. Mediation is a cost effective alternative to trial, and often creates the opportunity for an amicable resolution to all of the issues. Mediators do not make any decisions for either party, but rather assist the parties to assess relevant issues and reach amicable resolution. W encourage our clients to attempt mediation with an experienced mediator. Even if mediation does not resolve all pending issues, limiting the number of issues in dispute will reduce your overall expenses at trial.
Be Honest with Your Attorney.
As it turns out, honesty is the best policy. We cannot stress this point enough: Be honest with your attorney and disclose all of your assets at the outset. By doing so, your attorney can accurately gauge costs, and develop a strategic plan from the beginning. Concealing any of your finances or assets will not only be extremely costly, but it can lead to an unfavorable outcome of your case.
Understand Your Fee Agreement.
We strongly encourage you to have a firm understanding of your fee agreement – and review your attorney’s bills. It is important to ask questions about vague expenses on your bills and get a clear understanding of the charges. By doing so, you are likely to avoid the guesswork in understanding how your money is being allocated.
Don’t Drag Your Feet.
When it comes to attorney’s fees, you will be billed for every text, email and call. So, if your attorney makes a request for documents or information, we encourage you to promptly respond. Helping your attorney is the equivalent of helping yourself – and speeding up the divorce process will save you time and money.
Have Realistic Goals and Expectations.
Family law matters are very personal. That said, finding the right family law attorney for your case is essential; a good attorney can help you to assess what is realistic, and consequently, save you time and money. Keep in mind that larger fees do not necessarily equate to a more qualified attorney, nor do they guarantee a victory. While there are many options out there, we urge you to be weary of attorneys who promise you the world – or assure you of everything you are asking for.