Since all divorces are unique and all divorce attorneys are different, it can be difficult to know at the beginning of the process how much your divorce will cost you in legal fees. That said, there are things that every person going through a divorce can do to help keep their legal expenses down. Many of these things involve taking an active role in your divorce, including helping your lawyer do his or her job more efficiently, thus resulting in fewer hours billed on your case. Here are four steps you can take to save money on your divorce.
4 Steps to Save Money on Your Divorce
1. Be prepared
Your lawyer will need lots of information from you to do his or her job. Much of this information involves your finances. The less time your lawyer has to spend assembling important financial documentation or getting a full picture of your situation, the lower your bills will be.
If your attorney has to reach out to banks, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and other players in your financial life in order to get the documents or figures he or she needs, you will wind up paying for every phone call, e-mail, and calculation they have to make.
There are key steps you can take at the beginning of the divorce process - including providing your lawyer with as much information as possible - that will pay off in smaller legal fees down the road.
2. Keep your emotions in check
Yes, divorce can bring out the worst in some folks. Even otherwise calm and rational folks can find themselves making ill-advised decisions or comments as they ride the emotional roller coaster of ending their marriage. But when hostility, spite, or a desire to hurt their soon to be ex-spouse drive the divorce process, even minor issues that could otherwise be resolved rationally become major battles.
Every dispute and argument that your attorney needs to engage in costs money and time to resolve. By keeping your emotions in check and allowing reason to guide the process, you increase the chances of reaching agreement on more issues and decrease the money you will pay your lawyer for avoidable fights.
3. Consider mediation
As noted, the longer an issue remains in dispute, the more money it will cost you. If issues have to be resolved by a judge at a trial because you and your spouse were not able to reach a negotiated resolution, it will cost you significantly more.
All reasonable efforts should be made by divorcing parties to reach agreements on as many matters as possible, and if the parties and their lawyers cannot do so on their own, mediation or other methods of alternative dispute resolution can be a cost-effective alternative to a trial. Discuss with your lawyer whether mediation is a viable option in your case.
4. Understand your bills
Make sure you have a full understanding at the outset of how your attorney will be charging you for their services. Thoroughly review any written fee agreement and ask questions about any issues that are unclear to you. Similarly, review your lawyer’s bills when you receive them and if there is anything you don’t understand, let your attorney explain it to you.
Divorce can be costly on so many levels – emotional trauma, frayed relationships, uncertainty and anxiety about the future. Individuals going through the process understandably want to do whatever they can to keep the personal toll to a minimum. But divorce can hit your wallet just as hard as it can hit your heart. Nobody enjoys paying legal fees, but if you want to ensure that your rights are protected and that your divorce proceeds towards a positive outcome, you need an experienced divorce lawyer on your side. And that will cost money.
Your lawyer actually wants you to fully understand how and why they are doing what they are doing on your behalf and wants you to have a high level of trust and confidence in them. That comes from free and open communication about all matters relating to your divorce, including the amount you are paying your lawyer.