It’s no secret that divorce can be stressful. Without question, it’s one of the most significant and disruptive changes that many people will make in their lives. Even if it is ultimately for the best, it is certainly not without difficulty and frustration. Of course, much of that frustration is emotional, but for many people, there is definitely a certain amount of financial stress as well. It’s only understandable that many people look for ways to save money and keep costs down during the divorce process. The question is, how do you do it? How do you reduce costs during your divorce and still ensure that you are receiving the excellent and effective representation that you need? Let’s take a look at a few cost-saving measures you can take -and a few you shouldn’t take – together.
A few cost-saving measures that can be tremendously effective include:
- Staying organized: If you aren’t a naturally organized person, this step may seem a little intimidating, but it is important to make the effort. During the divorce process, there is a great deal of information that you will need to gather and provide to your attorney. Some of these documents include:
- Insurance policies;
- Bank account information;
- Credit card statements;
- W-2 forms and other tax-related documents;
- Investment account information;
- Any information about a business owned by you and/or your spouse;
- Copies of the deed to your house, car, and other property you may own;
- Mortgage papers;
- Information about any loans or other debt you may have;
- And many other documents.
It can be very helpful to gather as much of this information as you can at the beginning of the divorce process and to provide it to your attorney. Not only does it save your attorney time (and therefore save you money) because your attorney will not have to be digging around for the information – it can also be very helpful in the event that your spouse may try to hide or destroy some of these documents. That may sound far-fetched and like something your spouse would never do – but the truth is that people can behave in uncharacteristic ways during a divorce. Emotions run high and people can act in unexpected ways. Being prepared and organized ahead of time is one decision you won’t regret.
- Compromise and cooperate: This important factor in saving money shouldn’t be overlooked. Often, as couples begin the divorce process, emotions are very volatile, particularly if the marriage has been in a bad place for some time. As a result, especially if there was some sort of marital misconduct, one spouse may want to “get back” at the other. It may be tempting not to give in on any issues, even ones that you truly don’t care about very much, simply because you do not want your spouse to “win”. This approach is the wrong one. Ultimately, it results in more time being expended to fight over trivial matters, which ultimately amounts to more attorney fees that you’ll have to pay. In the end, approaching divorce negotiations with an attitude of compromise and cooperation will help both parties save money and ensure that the process proceeds more smoothly for everyone involved. Some couples even choose to create a list of issues and items they agree on before meeting with their attorneys to save money and time.
- Be willing to use alternative methods of dispute resolution: When many people envision divorce, they picture the emotional courtroom battles that we often see on TV with one spouse pitted against the other, where neither side is willing to give any ground, and every issue is fought over angrily. Fortunately, that is now the exception rather than the rule in most divorce cases. Increasingly, couples are turning to alternative methods of dispute resolution like mediation, arbitration, lawyer-led settlement negotiations, and collaborative law to resolve their issues without even having to step foot in a courtroom. While these methods are certainly not cost-free, when couples cooperate and collaborate as they work towards solutions, they usually save money in the long run. Often the negotiations are not as lengthy or difficult as they are when couples use traditional litigation to address their issues. This ends up resulting in less stress and more money in your pocket, both of which are good things.
- Talk to your attorney about his or her fee schedule: It’s also a wise decision to have a frank conversation with any attorney that you might hire regarding his or her fee schedule and method of billing. Any attorney who is worth hiring will be able to explain his or her fee structure to you and clear and understandable terms. While you will certainly have to pay some money for receiving excellent and effective service, you shouldn’t be hit with unexpected and surprise fees out of the blue. Ask your potential attorney what his or her fee structure is. Ask how he or she bills, and how often. Having this sort of conversation ahead of time can be very helpful and can save you from unpleasant surprise fees that weren’t factored into your budget.
While all of the above ways are wonderful ways to attempt to reduce the cost of divorce, there are a few things you shouldn’t do, even though at first they may seem tempting. Those things include:
- Attempting to represent yourself: In today’s digital age, there is no shortage of information to be found online. Truly, in many ways, we have the world at our fingertips. As a result, when it comes to many legal matters, divorce included, people assume that they can save money by representing themselves. It’s an understandable assumption, but a faulty one. The truth is that any legal matter can be complex, and there are often nuances that those who are not professionally trained will be unaware of. Overlooking an important step in the process or failing to assert your rights because you didn’t understand the law could end up costing you far more in the long run than you would spend by simply hiring a competent attorney who charges reasonable fees.
- Hiring an attorney who doesn’t specialize in divorce: When it comes to hiring an attorney, finding one who charges reasonable fees is important – but it is also important to hire an attorney with the right experience and knowledge that you need during the divorce process. Often, it can be tempting to hire an attorney because he or she charges rates much lower than any attorney you have previously met with. It’s easy to understand why that is tempting, but ultimately, if an attorney doesn’t have the experience and knowledge that you need on your side, it can end up costing you more in the long run. Just as you would not go to an eye doctor for a problem with your knee because the eye doctor charged you a lower rate, you should not go to an attorney who does not specialize in divorce simply because he or she offers you a “good deal”. Just as it is the case that when you represent yourself you may overlook some important aspect of the legal process, the same can happen when you hire an attorney who doesn’t truly understand the intricacies of divorce law, and how they apply to your circumstances.
Ultimately, while it is understandable and wise to do what you can to reduce the cost of divorce when possible, the best thing to do is strike a balance between saving money and making well-thought-out and reasonable choices that will move you through the divorce process as smoothly and successfully as possible. That means finding an attorney who has the knowledge and experience you need on your side, and who will charge you a reasonable price for excellent representation. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here to provide exactly that. It would be our honor to help you through the divorce process and on to the next, bright new chapter ahead. Call us at any time.