Keeping divorce costs to a minimum is important to most, if not all, spouses going through the difficult and emotional process of dissolving a marriage. Having to pay an attorney, or being forced to pay a portion or all of your spouse’s attorney fees makes the difficult divorce process even more concerning. There are ways to keep your divorce costs to a minimum, however.
Despite a common belief to the contrary, most reputable divorce attorneys want their clients to minimize costs in their case. A happy client is worth a lifetime of referrals.
Here are 5 ways to keep your divorce costs to a minimum:
1. Organize your thoughts in advance of any phone calls or meetings with your attorney. This includes writing down questions you want to ask and information you want to convey to your attorney. Organize all documents that you may think are relevant (such as emails, printouts of text messages, financial documents, etc.) in a way that is easy to navigate. Having this organization will result in shorter meetings and conversations with your attorney, which will result in less fees.
2. If possible, communicate with your spouse without anyone else, including lawyers, being present. There is no mandate prohibiting parties from talking with each other about resolving a case, except when a domestic violence restraining order is in effect.
3. Disclose, disclose, disclose. Financial disclosures are of paramount importance in all divorce cases. Organize your financial documents before a case is even filed, if possible, by printing out copies of financial statements going back several years, obtaining copies of property deeds, and gathering printouts of all insurance policies. Hand these documents over to the other side immediately.
4. Be your own investigator. An attorney can hire an investigator or do his or her own investigative work, but you will have more access to the same information for no cost. If you think your spouse is having an affair, dig through Social Media. If you think there are hidden accounts, make a copy of your family computer hard drive and take it to a computer expert (you may want to consult with your attorney ahead of time beforehand, however). Search through paper financial documents and make copies. The more information you have, the better off you will be in your case.
5. Be reasonable. One of the easiest ways for couples to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in fees is by being uncooperative or unreasonable. Hire a mediator at the early stages of your case (yes, you can still hire a mediator if both spouses have an attorney). Extend a reasonable settlement proposal to the other side. Most importantly, don’t have unrealistic expectations. Family courts are courts of “equity,” which means that courts will try and make “fair” orders. It is rarely the case that a divorce litigant receives entirely what they ask for in court.