If you and your spouse aren’t doing too much fighting over the divorce, you may be tempted to save money by trying to hire one attorney to handle the whole thing. Unfortunately, that’s not possible.
First, if you both had the same lawyer that lawyer would have a serious conflict of interest. It wouldn’t be ethical.
Second, that “super amiable divorce where everyone agrees about everything” is super rare. Usually, something happens midway through the process. Some sort of miscommunication sparks a: “Wait, that’s not what we agreed to,” moment.
After all, if you were having trouble communicating while you were married what makes you think the divorce process will be any easier?
So before you decide racing out to seek DIY divorce forms is your next best step, consider these alternatives.
Pennsylvania has codified collaborative divorce, making it the smart option for couples who truly feel they’re in accord.
Here’s how it works. Each party hires their own lawyer. Then both parties, and both lawyers, sign an agreement that commits to the collaborative negotiation process. If the process breaks down, both parties have to find new lawyers.
The time and expense of doing this often convinces both parties to work a little harder on negotiation than they might do otherwise. But the process can break down anyway if an abusive, narcissistic, or controlling spouse is involved.
Those who don’t want to risk the collaborative process can hire one mediator to handle their divorce for them.
And you should think long and hard before pursuing this solution. You need to ask yourself whether there’s a power imbalance in the relationship. Mediation can put one party at a vast disadvantage in relationships where abuse exists or even where one party has a stronger personality than the other.
And if your ex is hiding assets, the mediation process won’t uncover them…which means you could be walking away from a lot of money. At the very least, you should go into the process with a financial advisor by your side.
And if the process fails for any reason, you’ve paid more money than you had to.
When Getting a Divorce Lawyer is the Cheaper Option
If you suspect negotiations are likely to break down at any point you’re better off just getting a lawyer to begin with, and letting your spouse get his or hers. Then come to the table in the spirit of negotiation if you want to, without feeling obligated to give anything up just to move the process along, or to prove you are playing ball.
With a divorce attorney’s help, you get a sense for what a court is likely to decide. You can plot out your best case scenarios and your worst case ones. You can decide how far you’re willing to push certain points, and you can make reasonable offers.
That’s not to say you can’t do that in a collaborative divorce. You absolutely can. You just risk having to pay two retainers.
Remember, your goal should not be saving money in the short term.
When you’re locked up in the divorce process, your goal is to save money in the long term. If you save a little bit on the front end only to walk away from ten times as much later, you won’t feel good about how matters resolved.
Wondering which option is right for you? Give us a call so you can claim a free consultation with one of the attorneys at Sadek & Cooper. We’re here to help.