Divorce is a time-consuming, emotionally challenging, and expensive process for virtually every couple who endures it. If you have decided to end your marriage, it’s natural to have concerns about the potential cost of your legal fees and the long-term financial implications your divorce is likely to have on your future.
While divorce is rarely easy or cheap, there are a few things you can do to streamline your proceedings and save money on the overall cost of your dissolution. If you are preparing to divorce, take time to review these tips to see if any of them may be applicable to your situation.
Negotiate in Advance of Filing Your Divorce Petition
Divorce informally begins as soon as a couple decides to end their marriage, or one spouse decides to file a divorce petition. The process formally begins once a divorce petition is filed with the local family court. One of the best things you can do to streamline your divorce and save money on the overall cost of your divorce is to negotiate as much as possible with your spouse before either of you take any formal steps toward dissolution.
These early negotiations are important for several reasons. First, you can resolve some of the most important issues your divorce will entail more quickly by understanding one another’s positions from the outset of your divorce. Instead of wading through complex negotiations for longer than necessary and incurring more substantial legal fees, take time to privately discuss your needs, goals, and preferences with your spouse before either of you file a divorce petition.
In some cases, these preliminary discussions may compel a couple to rethink their decision to divorce. They may decide to pursue marriage counseling or work through their issues. In other cases, early negotiation helps both spouses develop their respective frameworks of what they want to see out of their divorce proceedings.
Gather Documentation Prior to Filing for Divorce
Divorce is more than just ending your marriage contract. It is also the legal process of assigning separate property ownership rights over your marital property. You will need to produce extensive documentation to complete your divorce, primarily financial records. Before you consult a divorce attorney or take any other formal steps toward divorce, you should start compiling a packet of the most important information you will need to complete your divorce proceedings. This packet should include your property ownership records, bank statements, and any correspondence between you and your spouse that may be relevant to your divorce proceedings.
You’re likely to overlook a few things you will need for financial disclosure, and your divorce attorney can help you fill in these gaps. However, taking time to gather the materials you will need to submit to the court in advance can significantly speed up the early stages of your divorce and save you money on legal fees.
Explore Alternative Dispute Resolution
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to save money on your divorce is to take advantage of alternative dispute resolution. Litigation is time-consuming and expensive. The more time you spend in court, the more you spend in legal fees. Alternative dispute resolution can potentially help you resolve your divorce in much less time than litigation would require, and you’re more likely to reach more agreeable results with this option as well. However, alternative dispute resolution is only possible when both spouses are willing to try it.
You and your spouse should carefully consider the potential benefits of alternative dispute resolution for your divorce. Even if the two of you can’t seem to agree on anything or can’t imagine having a civil negotiation about your divorce, it is still possible to take advantage of the benefits of alternative dispute resolution. Divorce mediation is particularly well-suited for contentious couples that may not be entirely amicable toward one another in their divorce proceedings. A neutral mediator can guide your discussion and help you and your spouse reach a mutually agreeable divorce settlement much faster than you may expect.
It’s important to note that you will not be able to resolve every aspect of your divorce through alternative dispute resolution, but this does not mean you should not still try it. For example, you cannot privately resolve child custody with your spouse. The court has a legal duty to verify your custody order and preserve your children’s best interests. You can, however, negotiate your preferred parenting plan and then submit this to the family court for review and approval. Even if you cannot settle every aspect of divorce privately, alternative dispute resolution can still serve as a valuable springboard in streamlining your divorce and saving you money.
Hire the Right Divorce Lawyer
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to ensure a more cost-effective divorce is to invest in the right legal counsel to represent you through your divorce proceedings. While it may be counterintuitive to some, hiring an attorney is one of the best ways to save money in the long run when it comes to your divorce. While you will need to pay for their services, the investment can easily translate to a significantly better divorce order than you could have secured on your own. Additionally, you can enjoy peace of mind during your divorce proceedings since you will know your case is in capable hands.
Before agreeing to any divorce attorney’s representation, be sure to review their billing policy closely. The majority of divorce attorneys charge their clients by the hour, and some offer flat-fee billing for specific services. Others will use a combination of these billing practices and may be more flexible with their clients in terms of legal fees. Once you find an experienced divorce attorney that offers reasonable and client-tailored billing, you will be ready to approach your divorce case with confidence.
Ultimately, your divorce is likely to carry significant financial implications for the rest of your life, or at least your foreseeable future. Whatever your unique divorce case entails, having legal counsel you can trust on your side makes the entire process easier to manage. If you are unsure of how to prepare for your divorce or need guidance and support as you navigate your dissolution proceedings, contact an experienced divorce attorney to secure the legal counsel you need.