If you’re struggling with the cost of divorce, here are 4 tips to help you save on attorney fees.
With the average cost of divorce in the US at $15,000 (investopedia.com), it's really no surprise that most people cite cost of divorce as one of their top 2 concerns when getting divorced. $15,000 is a hefty sum to most couples. It's not unusual for couples to seriously consider staying unhappily together rather than getting divorced simply because of the cost. Some couples decide to get divorced and then start saving for it. They'll choose to continue living together (which is very difficult for most) to minimize expenses and start saving so they can eventually get divorced. Even those couples who are more comfortable with the average price tag of a divorce don't want to have to pay more than necessary.
So how do you cut the cost of your divorce? Follow these four tips and you'll significantly your divorce cost.
- Keep a notebook, file folder, or spreadsheet that you use to record EVERY interaction you have with your attorney and their staff. The reason for this is that going through divorce is stressful and when you're stressed you aren't always thinking at your best. It's incredibly easy to forget that you’ve asked a particular question before. Although your attorney and/or their staff will be happy to answer your question again, they'll also be happy to bill you again for doing so. These records are your defense against forgetfulness that costs you additional attorney fees. Before you contact your attorney or their staff to ask a question, check through your documentation and see if you’ve already got the information recorded. If you can find the information yourself without contacting your attorney, you’ve just saved yourself unnecessary fees. (What do you keep in your notebook, file folder, box or spreadsheet? The short answer is EVERYTHING. You'll want to record the date, time and duration of every phone call you make to your attorney's office along with the information shared during the conversation. Save all of your email and text correspondence between you and your attorney's office. You'll also want copies of all the documentation you and your attorney exchange.)
- Realize what your attorney's role is in your divorce. Many people going through divorce expect their attorney and/or their staff to help them with all of the emotional and financial repercussions of divorce. The truth is that no matter how sympathetic your attorney and their staff are, unless they've been trained as a therapist, counselor, psychologist or divorce coach, they're probably not the best source of support for dealing with any of the emotional repercussions of your divorce. Similarly, unless your attorney is a CPA or financial expert, they probably are not the best person to help you figure out complex financial matters regarding your divorce. Making sure you interact with your attorney and their staff only to deal with the legal aspects of your divorce will save you not only the fees but the heartache of acting on well-meaning but erroneous information.
- Approach your divorce from a business perspective. Whether you realize it or not, when you got married you essentially created a business in the eyes of the government. The legal document that will be enforced with your divorce is to create the legal separation of your business (marriage) into 2 separate parts. When you allow your emotions to enter into the negotiation of the divorce decree, then you can be guaranteed that the cost of your divorce will increase. I've spoken with many attorneys over the years who each have stories of divorcing couples who fought about ridiculous things like who gets which Wii game and who gets which Tupperware. One hour of each of their attorney’s time usually costs more than the items being argued over. Keeping discussions that you involved the attorneys with to a minimum will definitely reduce the cost of your divorce.
- Come to your attorney with as many things agreed upon between you and your soon-to-be-ex as possible. If you and your soon-t-be ex can have a calm discussion as equals, it's in your best interest to sit down at the kitchen table and agree on the division of as many things as possible without the need to involve attorneys. It might be simple to decide who gets the china and who gets the big screen TV. If that's the case for you, then document as much of that stuff as possible. When you can each go to your attorneys with at least some of the separation of the assets, debts, real estate and even child care and support already worked out, the cost of your divorce will be dramatically less than if you had nothing agreed to.
The fact is divorce is expensive. However, by using these four tips you can significantly decrease the cost of yours.