Tips on Saving Money on Legal Fees During the Divorce Process
Dear April Masini,
My husband and I have decided that we're ready to get a divorce. The only problem is, divorces are expensive and we don't have a lot of money to spend. We are separating fairly amicably, so I'm hoping we don't have to spend too much money to finalize this. Do you have any advice on how to save money during a divorce? Please give me some divorce advice that will help me move on from the break up of my relationship without going broke."
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Discount Divorces,
Getting divorced is already difficult in so many ways; it only gets worse when you start adding money into the equation. But there are lots of steps you can take to ease the financial strain during your divorce process.
Advice for Saving on Divorce Legal Fees:
Know what you want in the two main parts of any divorce: financial and custody settlements. The financial settlement will involve splitting up any money and goods that were made or acquired during the marriage. Custody settlements involve splitting the time you and your ex will have with your children.
After you figure out what you want, then figure out what you are willing to live with. A good negotiation involves compromise and making deals. If either one of you are unwilling to compromise, you will have a long, expensive, painful battle.
If you and your soon-to-be ex spouse can settle things between yourselves without any attorneys involved, you will save thousands of dollars at the least and hundreds of thousands at the most. Attorneys usually cost between $200 an hour and $750 an hour. Try putting your emotions aside to save yourself a lot of money, and settle as much as you can with your ex.
A mediator is a cheaper alternative to a divorce attorney. If you and your ex can work out some of the division of property and custody time between you, then the mediator can help you negotiate the rest. Or, the mediator can do all of the negotiating if you can’t work with your ex.
If you do hire an attorney do not treat him or her as a therapist. A therapist is cheaper than an attorney who bills you for every phone call, in 10 or 20 minute increments of their hourly fee, which can easily become $75 for 10 minutes. If you have to call your attorney for advice, make a list of what you want to discuss beforehand, so that you don’t waste expensive attorney phone time.
Hire a therapist. At approximately $125 for 50 minutes, with most insurance companies covering at least some of that, you will work out your feelings that may affect your settlements. If you do end up in a custody battle, being in therapy is considered a sign of health, not weakness, by the courts.
Keep accurate records of everything, so you don’t waste time you could be working for real money, later, gathering papers you put somewhere in your house. Keep loose leaf notebooks of legal letters and documents. Keep a log of phone calls with your ex, and keep a record of your children’s visits with their other parent, their emotional responses, and the amount of time you have them with you.
Get a child support order immediately and do not rely on a handshake deal. If your ex stops paying child support, it will be harder to get a support order if there has never been one, than if there is one. Getting a support order after a period of not having one is very expensive, at a time when you may be financially vulnerable, which is why you need the support order.
Keep your dating life quiet. Many ex spouses, even the ones who want the divorce in the first place, will become financially vindictive if they think their ex is dating. While it is important to move on with your life, don’t rub it in your ex spouse’s face. It will cost you money if you do.
Settle both your custody and financial settlements quickly to avoid long, drawn out battles that make divorce attorneys and their adjunct professionals, like court appointed therapists, mediators, special masters, forensic accountants, vocational analysts, etc., rich. Figure out if the fighting to get what you’re owed is worth what it will cost you in dollars to win that battle. Divorce fighting is expensive. Settling is way less so. Even if you end up giving money to your ex spouse, it may very well be less than what you would spend fighting that settlement.
If you need help getting back into the dating game after divorce, check out my books Think & Date Like A Man (for women) and Date Out Of Your League (for men).