One of the chief worries from couples facing an impending divorce is the cost of it. From the filing fees to mediation fees to attorneys fees, a divorce can wipe out all money a married couple may have. However, there are ways to keep the costs down when going through a divorce. Here are some tips so you might not have to “break the bank”.
1) Do not go at it alone. Find an experienced attorney to help you navigate through the legal red tape that is a divorce. You may think that representing yourself will save you money. However, an experienced lawyer can help you determine what is marital property and what is not as well as help you properly divide your assets and calculate child support and/or alimony. A calculating error of just $75.00 per month in child support could end up costing you up to $16,200 in the long run.
2) Hire an experienced family law or divorce attorney. It’s good to shop around for a divorce attorney, but it’s a mistake to think you are going to save money by hiring an attorney that charges a small fee. More often than not, these attorneys are not experienced in family law and are willing to charge less to get the experience. This can be a money trap for the customer, for often times the attorney will have to do more work on your case as he or she is learning the law. Remember your primary goal is to acheive a reasonable settlement with your spouse. To accomplish this you need an experienced attorney who might cost a bit more in the begining but who will ultimately save you money when all is said and done.
3) Attempt to negotiate a settlement with your spouse. If you and your spouse are able to communicate, then it is in your best interest to negotiate a settlement and come to an agreement on the division of marital property and the parenting plan/schedule for the children. This will not only keep down the hourly fees of the attorneys but may also negate the need for court ordered mediation.
4) Understand the billable hour. The majority of divorce attorneys charge by the hour. The tendancy to contact your attorney with every question that arises is great, and easy to understand. The more organized you are when you speak to or meet with your attorney, the less of his or her expensive time you will take in conversation and paper shuffling. Emailing your attorney your questions is a great way to organize your thoughts and allows him or her to respond to you when he or she can focus on your case instead of switching gears from another project the moment you call.
5) Don’t fight over personal property.
Do you really want to pay the attorneys hourly fees to divide up the plates and spatulas? It is much more cost effective to make a list, determine what each of you really wants, and negotiate the items of common interest. If the division seems disproportionate, either shrug it off or find a means of equalizing through cash or other assets. Most often it is cheaper to buy replacements than to pay the attorneys to fight for them. Photos? Copy them. Often people find that it’s not the items, but the letting go that poses the greatest challenges.
6)Don’t fight over the children. Not only are children are often hardest hit by divorce, this is generally the issue that sucks up most of the time and money in a divorce case. Children need to know that even if Mom and Dad no longer love each other, they both love the kids. If you and your spouse put the children’s needs first, the two of you can find creative, realistic parenting plans that will allow you to co-parent to the children’s best advantage.
7) Do your own copying. Disclosure of financial information is very paper-intensive, and everyone needs copies of everything. Your attorney must bill you for the time staff spends making copies of your paperwork. Set aside a couple of hours to spend at a copy center (these vary widely in price and hours), and make three copies of everything: one for your attorney, one for planner, and one for yourself (which you may eventually provide to your spouse or their counsel).
Andrew G. Storie is a family law and divorce attorney who serves Orlando and all of Central Florida. For more information please visit