The average cost of a divorce in America is $15,000. That doesn’t mean your divorce is going to cost that much.
Indeed, a lot of people make silly mistakes which increase the costs of their divorce. And while it’s a good idea to have some money set aside to get through the process, you shouldn’t let the idea of price scare you off getting an attorney.
Indeed, as we’ve covered in the past, you will end up paying far more without an attorney.
Still, we understand our clients need and want to save some money. That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to offer this list of things you can do to keep the costs low.
Get all your documents together before you come and see us.
The more organized and prepared you are, the less time we have to spend. The typical client comes in off the street without any clue what’s going on in their lives beyond, perhaps, their personal checkbooks.
That means we bill extra time chasing you down for certain documents. Then we spend time going through disorganized documents instead of having a clear picture of what’s going on from Day 1.
What do we need?
Information on all the assets you own. Checking accounts. Savings accounts. Tax returns. Business profit and loss statements. Business accounts. Retirement accounts. Bitcoin you or your spouse own. Insurance policies. Legal descriptions of any real property you and your spouse own. Tax assessor’s statements. Information on every car you and your spouse own.
We also need information on all your debts. That means every single student loan, credit card, medical debt, mortgage, and car loan you and your spouse have been carrying. This includes credit card statements and all the associated purchase records.
Live About has a very nice, comprehensive list. You’ll find a copy here.
Get these documents together before you announce your desire to divorce to your spouse.
If you do, you reduce, or even eliminate, the chances your spouse will be able to hide money. This means we’re spending a lot less time engaging in the discovery process.
Make sure you know the places unscrupulous spouses sometimes try to hide assets. If you can keep an eagle eye on these places and find out about them for yourself then you don’t have to worry about paying us to find them for you.
Sure, it’s illegal for your spouse to try hiding assets. That doesn’t mean he or she won’t try it anyway.
Know exactly what you want out of the divorce before you arrive.
The typical client comes in wanting us to give them “whatever we can get.” This means they don’t know when to stop fighting. They never quite feel satisfied with their settlement, because they aren’t sure whether they’re getting a fair shake.
Sit down and write down what your ideal divorce would look like. Make sure you communicate that information to us. We’ll help you identify and think about any issues you might have missed, but having that starting point is very valuable.
Limit the number of emails you send.
We bill for every email, so don’t be the client that sends us 20 anxious emails a day. If you can’t do it in one email, consider writing down all your questions and tackling a quick phone call. That half hour phone call might be all it takes, and it might save you a great deal of time, energy, and anxiety.
Deal with your emotions first.
Preferably you’ll deal with your emotions before you ever meet with us. Get a therapist if you have to.
By the time you get to the divorce process, ideally, you’ll already be over it. This keeps you from getting into the mindset that the divorce is about punishing your spouse. It will keep you from fighting over silly, nitpicky things.
If that dresser that’s been in the family for five generations is important, then by all means, communicate this to your attorney. But fighting over every last scrap of furniture, every nick knack, and every one of your electronics is foolish. People do it, too, but think about it. At a certain point you could replace every one of those items brand new for the amount of time you’re paying to fight over it.
Be open to reasonable settlements, and keep things as amiable as possible.
This is, of course, related to the point above. We can tell you if a settlement offer is reasonable within the boundaries of the law. We can also help you make some reasonable settlement offers. Ideally there might only be one or two revisions before you and your spouse can just sign the thing and get on with your lives.
Keep in mind that barring abuse, chances are you’re not going to get sole custody of your child. Joint legal custody is more common. Unless your circumstances are unusual, lifetime alimony is not very common. And equitable distribution is rarely 50/50, but it is equitable. In a reasonable settlement offer, neither you nor your spouse would end up in the poor house.
In fact, like most experienced divorce attorneys, we have enough experience to offer a ballpark prediction of what a judge would want to do anyway. This gives us a fine benchmark from which to help you navigate yours.
Need some examples of what a reasonable divorce settlement might look like? Check out these profiles.
Our goal is to keep your divorce costs as low as possible.
This is one reason why we offer you a free consultation. We don’t feel anyone should be stuck in a bad marriage, or go without legal help, just because they are worried about the costs.
Take our advice. Then give us a call. We’re ready to help you get through this process as smoothly as possible.