Wondering how to reduce the cost of your divorce? You’re not alone.
Divorce is very taxing, both emotionally and financially. You will often feel as though things are spiraling out of control. That may be true in certain respects, but in many ways how much your divorce ultimately costs will very much depend on your actions and choices, irrespective of the path taken by your spouse. Here are some quick tips on how to reduce the cost of your divorce.
7 Tips to Reduce the Cost of Your Divorce
1. Condense the Number of E-mails/Telephone Calls to Your Attorney
This is not to say that you should hold back from communicating with you attorney. Rather instead of e-mailing him/her every time you think of a question, keep a legal pad or a diary handy and make a list of your questions as you think of them.
Then put together a comprehensive and concise e-mail with all of your questions or arrange for a single meeting/phone call. Attorneys typically have a minimum charge per call or per e-mail. Piecemealing your inquiries can become extremely costly. If you ask a series of short questions by sending multiple e-mails, you may be incurring unnecessary billing. Handle as many things at one time as possible once you have your attorney’s attention.
2. Stay Organized
When you send information to your attorney, try to decipher and organize it while it’s still in your possession. For example, if you have a series of documents to tender give a full description of what you have attached. You don’t want your attorney trying to figure out what things mean when you are readily familiar with what it is that you are sending and the facts of your case.
In certain cases you may have to turn over documents to the other side. If you are giving your attorney documents for this purpose, cite the paragraph number(s) that your documents are responsive to. When you have a large number of documents try to send them all at once via a link or thumb drive. In doing so, provide them in chronological order and if something is missing, be sure to indicate exactly what that is. Don’t have your attorney trying to assemble the puzzle pieces. The last thing you want to do is send two hundred miscellaneous documents to your attorney, missing pages, in no order, and in separate e-mails expecting them to arrange your items some assemblance of order. It is a terrible use of your attorney’s time and an even more terrible use of your money. Ask your attorney how they would prefer to receive the documents and how you can organize them beforehand to conserve resources.
3. Never Fight Solely on the Basis of Principle
Only fight for the things that really matter to you and your family. Whenever you decide to engage in a legal battle for the principle, because something seems unjust or because you want the other person to pay the price, you will undoubtedly be spending a great deal of money to only potentially prevail. Things are not as always clear-cut right and wrong to the court as they are to the litigants. Every matter presented to the Court comes with a calculated risk, and even if you win, often times it is not worth the cost or aggravation. Try to avoid having the Court resolve your disputes whenever possible and choose your battles wisely.
4. Keep the Check Ins with Your Attorney to a Minimum
Your attorney has an obligation to notify you when progress is made on your case. If a pleading/response has been filed or opposing counsel has communicated a settlement offer, your attorney will certainly let you know. Family law matters can be very unsettling and sometimes you just want an update. There is nothing wrong that. Just keep in mind that if anything critical had occurred, you attorney would have notified you.
5. Do Not Confuse Your Divorce Attorney with Your Therapist
There is a certain degree of emotional baggage that your attorney is well equipped to handle. They can provide you with some insight as to the timeline of your case, what steps you can take to move things forward, their experiences with this particular issue before, and reassurance as to what the conclusion of your case may look like based on the legal principles of your state. They are on your team and fighting the battles on the frontline with you, but they have a particular role, and are not to be used in place of a therapist.
Your attorney will usually provide a listening ear, but at the end of the day, they are there to resolve your legal problems, not deeper emotional traumas. If you simply want to rant about your ex, and blow off some steam, or simply share your fears, your divorce attorney may be a very costly way to accomplish that end.
6. Keep the Lines of Communication Open with Your Ex
If it is possible, this is probably the single best thing you can do to reduce your overall attorney’s fees incurred in your case. When you run everything past your attorney, who then communicates with your ex’s attorney, who then responds to your attorney, you are really just using your attorney as a conduit for communication. This is probably not the high-level sophisticated work that you are expecting from your legal counsel.
Moreover, if you are able to communicate in an amicable fashion, the frivolous fights will be kept to a minimum and you will, hopefully, be able to resolve your matter without the court’s intervention. Going to hearings, or ultimately a trial, can be incredibly expensive and almost always leads to frustration and regret.
You can’t control your ex’s behavior, but you can control your own. At one point you and this other person intimately shared a vision of the future. You were able to work together to accomplish a bigger goal. Try to communicate with them in a respectful manner devoid any negative emotions, despite whatever has come between you. Then see if they respond in kind. As they say, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Sometimes though, being cordial or communicating at all, is just not possible if an ex is downright awful, rotten, and uncompromising. If trial is inevitable, then get there as soon as possible.
7. Invest in a Scanner
A scanner is a fantastic investment and it will not go to waste even after the divorce. There will be many occasions throughout the divorce process that you will be asked to review and approve documents. While there may be ways to accomplish this without a home scanner, these alternatives may be cumbersome and not appropriate for all of your needs. For example, you may have a way of electronically signing documents. This is a great solution in many respects, but what if you need to send your attorney a set of physical documents in your possession. Maybe you are able to take a picture on your phone. This will likely then require your attorney to convert the document into a PDF, assuming the resolution and quality is even acceptable at all. Then you will be billed for this time. Sure, you can run to the neighborhood copy store but this will become tedious. Moreover, going to your attorney’s office to sign documents could potentially lead to additional meetings and billing. You won’t regret the investment of having a quality scanner as a post-divorce souvenir.
While divorce can often be expensive, there are ways that you reduce the overall costs. Talk to your attorney about your concerns and find out how you can work with them to keep your billable hours to a minimum while ensuring that you remain an active and engaged participant in your litigation.
Marie Sarantakis is the Founding Attorney of Sarantakis Law Group, Ltd. in Oak Brook, Illinois. She concentrates her practice in family law and serves as a mediator, guardian ad litem, parenting coach, and collaborative practitioner. www.sarantakislaw.com.