Is Divorce Always Expensive?
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Is Divorce Always Expensive?
As with so many things, when it comes to the law, the answer to whether divorce is always expensive is a solid, “It depends.”
Or, perhaps, more accurately, the answer is a solid, “it depends on you.” At least, it depends, in part, on you. And it depends, in part, on your spouse.
You can only control one of those two people: yourself. But that doesn’t mean you can’t quietly encourage your spouse to take some of the steps we’re about to suggest, too. After all, your spouse probably doesn’t want to spend $15,000 on the divorce, either.
All this advice assumes you’re not in any danger. Obviously there’s not much you can do with an abusive spouse, and in such a case your first goal has to be securing your own safety and the safety of your kids. But assuming no abuse or dangerous behavior is involved, you can take the following 7 steps to make your divorce more affordable.
Step 1 — Get your emotions under control.
Anger, fear, denial. All of these emotions can trip you up throughout the divorce process.
Anger can cause you to fight over things you don’t even care about, just because you want to punish your spouse. It can also mean you are way more invested in making sure everyone knows your spouse is a “bad person” than you are in resolving your divorce case in an inexpensive, reasonable way.
Fear can cause you to make unreasonable demands because you are sure your spouse is trying to “screw you over.” In reality, your spouse is probably just as afraid as you are. Afraid he or she won’t be able to pay the spousal support you’re demanding. Afraid he or she will never get to see the kids. Afraid he or she won’t have enough money to live on.
Whatever the source of the fear, it can become a problem.
Finally, there’s denial. Some spouses dig in their heels during the divorce process because they don’t want it to happen. They think if they fight long enough some miracle will bring you both back together.
If you’re that spouse, you need to take a breath and realize this is happening. There’s nothing you can do about it. Now all you can do is resolve it and try to move on with your life.
Step 2 — Understand the best and worst court case scenarios.
This is one area in which having a really good divorce lawyer can help out a great deal.
After a thorough review of your situation we usually know what a divorce judge is likely to do with your case. This allows us to tell you the best-case scenario if you go to court. It also allows us to tell you the worst-case scenario if you go to court.
The “best case” is a long shot. You’re probably going to end up with something between those two extremes.
Knowing this, you can shoot for achieving something between those two extremes by working with your spouse. Neither of you are going to walk away completely happy, but it’s possible you both will walk away with a situation you can live with.
You’ll certainly walk away with a less expensive divorce.
See also: How to Speed up Your Divorce.
Step 3 — Figure out what you want in light of what is reasonable, possible, and likely under the law.
Once you’ve figured out the best and worst case scenarios you can figure out what’s really important to you.
Yes, perhaps you could get spousal support. But maybe an amicable co-parenting agreement is more important to you. Maybe accepting a lump sum that will help you get back on your feet without locking your spouse into a lifelong obligation will make your spouse a lot more likely to stop fighting.
Step 4 — If at all possible, figure out what your spouse wants.
Figuring out what you’ll accept is only half of any negotiation.
The other step is to figure out what you can offer. And to do that you have to know what’s important to your spouse.
To learn, we can ask your spouse’s lawyer. Or, if you’d like to do it for free, you can call your spouse and ask. Just listen. Don’t demand anything yet. Don’t even talk about what you want. Just listen.
Sure, what your spouse is telling you could sound completely unreasonable. Even loony tunes. Let your lawyers worry about that. You’re just on a fact-finding mission to figure out where your ex stands.
Once you have that information you’ll have more power to move forward in a productive way.
And who knows? Your spouse might just surprise you by being more reasonable than you would have given him or her credit for.
Step 5 — Find the common ground, or the places where you can budge.
You may be pleasantly surprised to learn you and your spouse want some of the same things.
And even if you don’t, you might find your spouse’s wishes and your wishes are pretty close to one another.
For example, you might want a 60%-40% parenting arrangement where your child lives with you most of the time but gets to see his or her other parent almost as often as he or she sees you.
Your spouse may have a 50%-50% parenting agreement in mind. Is it feasible? If so, there might be no good reason to fight against it.
If it isn’t, what would be? Could it be 55%-45%? What’s the barrier? Would you be willing to make it 50%-50% if your spouse will agree to remain in your child’s school district? What can you do to get closer to your spouse’s goals without completely destroying your own?
Step 6 — Make a reasonable offer.
Once you’ve made these evaluations about every major issue involved with the divorce you can have your lawyer draw up a settlement offer. Of course, we recommend talking to your lawyer one more time to make sure you’re not doing anything he or she wouldn’t advise.
Your spouse might surprise you by signing it right away. Or he or she might come back with a counter-offer. Either way, the dialogue’s been opened, and at this stage you have a real shot at avoiding a divorce trial altogether.
It’s not that you shouldn’t be willing to go to trial if you absolutely must. But if you can avoid it, you will definitely spend less money.
Step 7 — Be willing to adjust and negotiate.
Maybe you’re looking at a counteroffer, and you don’t love it. But is it reasonable? And if it’s reasonable, can you live with it it?
If you can’t, are there any parts you can accept? Accept those so they become non-issues, and focus on negotiating and coming up with creative solutions for the few points you can’t live with.
And of course, eventually, you must know when enough is enough. You must know when you’ve hit a point of “It’s as good as it gets.” At that point, maybe you just take the settlement.
If you’re not sure, look at how much time you and your lawyer have put in to date. Figure out how much more time another round of negotiations is likely to take. Multiply that amount by your lawyer’s hourly rate. Is it worth it?
If not, sign the document and walk away. Your divorce will be over faster, your legal fees will be a much lighter burden, and you’ll have more respect for yourself when all the dust settles.