How Do I Keep My Costs Low in a Divorce?
Reduce and Mitigate Conflict
This one is the most important issue we deal with when it comes to a contested family law case—Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support. Clearly, there has been some kind of conflict or issue in your marriage that brought you and your spouse to the point of divorce, but keeping a hardline stance on terms of the divorce to get back at your spouse will only hurt your bank account more than it actually hurts your ex. If you and your spouse can negotiate and come to an amicable agreement, this will significantly reduce the cost of an attorney.
Furthermore, if you have children, understand that they are the most important piece of the divorce in the eyes of the court. The court looks in the best interest of the children, always. I always tell my clients that they need to focus on what’s best for the children. For example:
Yes, you may not see your children as much as you’re used to or like to, but you may also live a good distance away. Having them stay with you on a Sunday night when they have school the next day may not be in their best interest—because sometimes that looks like waking up extra early Monday morning, maybe skipping breakfast, driving 30min to an hour for them to get to school by 7-8 am.
The above may be an extreme example or doesn’t fit your situation, but it does show a situation where a court may not rule in your favor because it isn’t what’s best for the children. In order to cooperate and compromise on the terms of the divorce, it is essential that the parties put aside their emotions and feelings to make sure that you can reach an agreement out of court. Every little thing becoming an issue will bring tremendous cost and time.
Out of court Options (Alternative Dispute Resolutions)
Going to court is expensive and time-consuming for everyone. Although the court may seem like the only option, Mediation, Arbitration, and Collaborative Divorce are all alternative dispute resolutions, as opposed to court, that is almost always less costly and can speed up the process of lengthy litigation. These options allow the parties to communicate directly with a neutral third party, potentially eliminating the middleman, and coming up with an agreement that you wouldn’t be able to in court.
Keep your Records Organized
If your spouse has multiple bank accounts, credit cards, loans, etc, it can take the attorney and support staff hours to sift through to get to the things that are important to your case. If you were to hand over a box of bank statements versus an organized filing system of month/years of them (preferable electronic), could save so much time and cost to you.
Keep Efficient and Don’t Procrastinate
There are instances where cases are moving as fast as they can but they are waiting for the court’s schedule to open to have a hearing or trial—that is not what we’re referring to. During your case, your attorney will be giving you “homework” of sorts. This could be gathering bank and credit card statements, loan documents, filling out or signing documents. In short, sign what you need to sign, collect what you need to collect, and agree on what you need to agree in order to expedite your divorce and reduce fees.
Assistants and Support Staff
It is understandable that you hired an attorney to handle your divorce, so you want and expect to speak to your attorney directly about your case. However, you can easily lower your fees by avoiding unnecessary long phone calls or meetings with your attorney. When possible, the attorney’s legal assistants and support staff will be able to answer most of your questions as long as you’re not asking for legal advice. If you’re looking for a quick update, location of the court, or date of hearings, they can answer those questions. Should you feel it necessary to speak with your attorney directly, the most efficient way to do so is to use the legal assistant to schedule a time so that you and your attorney are both prepared and focused on what has to be discussed. It is advised to have a list of questions and to take notes during these calls to help bring down the length, and therefore cost, of the call or meeting.