Divorce is almost always a painful experience. But you can limit the pain to your finances if you use your lawyer more effectively. All cases are different and some of the suggestions in this guide may not be appropriate for your case. But for most, these suggestions will steer you away from the pitfalls that can result in extra expense on the way to resolving your divorce.
- Be organized. Organize your personal financial information in advance and be complete. Your case may not call for extensive financial disclosure, but many cases do. Delay in obtaining financial information is a major reason for the length of divorce cases. Tax returns, W-2 forms and recent pay stubs are always exchanges. Statements for financial accounts are also common: bank, credit card, 401(k). Much of this information is available online and if you need 3 years worth, order it from your bank.
- Control your emotions. Divorce is a difficult thing for many people, but try to see this aspect as a business deal. Sure, you’ll have to deal with the emotionally difficult issue of breaking up. But try to deal with the legal aspect as just dividing partnership or company. Be reasonable! Litigating is expensive, so you should always try to resolve as much as you can with your spouse before bringing in the lawyers. If you can resolve issues like custody, visitation and holiday schedules, property distribution or grounds for a divorce, you’re cutting down on the time it will take to finish the negotiations the lawyers will be doing. The lawyers can help you get past issues on which you disagree, but if you’re arguing over little things, the cost of the argument will be more than the cost of replacing whatever wedding present you think you should have.
- Unless you need instant answers, e-mail your attorney with questions rather than asking them on the phone. That way you’ll get a complete answer that you’ll be able to absorb at your own pace, rather than trying to take notes on a conversation and perhaps having to repeat things that you don’t understand when they’re spoken rather than written.
- Don’t let your lawyer get caught by surprise. That means don’t be embarrassed, tell your lawyer the unvarnished truth about everything you’re asked. The attorney won’t be judging you, but you and the attorney will be the losers if the other side contradicts something your attorney has put forth as a fact.
- Try to limit the amount of hand holding you need. Of course divorce is an painful process, an emotional roller coaster. You’ll need to talk to your lawyer about any number of important issues. Ask questions whenever you have them, and don’t be shy about making suggestions if you have them. But if you can get your emotional support from friends rather than your attorney, you can save significant amounts of money.
Above all, remember, you can be penny wise and pound foolish. Saving money on legal fees isn’t a good idea if the result is a bad outcome. But if you can use some of these suggestions you’ll find that your legal costs are lowered substantially over the course of a contested divorce