Divorce can be a traumatic experience in which every aspect of a person’s life is on display and the concept of “privacy” is lost. Lawyers and Judges assess your personal life, your property, your finances, your relationship with your children… It can be overwhelming and can feel like you have no control over any part of the process. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the divorce process is that it can be so expensive, and it can feel like you have no control over the cost. But what if you could control how much money you spend in a divorce case? Read further to learn the Five Ways to Save Money in Your Divorce Case!
In fact, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the cost of a divorce case. Of course, every case is different, but with some planning and some discipline, you can save money for your future instead of spending it on attorney fees. Using these five tips, you can save money in your divorce case:
- Be Organized!
Remember that you are paying your attorney for the time they spend on your case. If you present your lawyer with a box full of mixed up paperwork, be prepared to pay them for hours of sorting through those papers and organizing them so that they can be used later. At fees of several hundred dollars an hour, this adds up. When you can, do the organization yourself and present information to your attorney in a way that they can understand and use quickly. Prepare bullet point summaries of documents where possible. Your lawyer isn’t being lazy and is generally happy to do the organizing for you, but why would you pay several hundred dollars an hour for something you can do yourself?
- Do Your Homework!
Throughout a divorce there is a great deal of preparation required. There will be financial documents prepared, depositions to prepare for, testimony to give… Let your attorney know early that you want to be a partner in this preparation. To the extent that you can gather information for your lawyer and put it in a manageable format, do the homework. Prepare an outline of issues that you see in your case so that your lawyer gets context without needing to spend hours hunting for the information. Remember, there is a fine line here… your goal is to save time so that your attorney doesn’t bill you any more than necessary. A client can easily go overboard and bury their lawyer in information that causes even more expense. Be careful!
- Know Your Priorities!
I always recommend at the beginning of a case for clients to make a quick “top five” list of the most important issues in their case. What are the things you must have, or cannot live without? Maybe you want to make sure you get as much time with your children as possible. Maybe you want to make sure you get 100% of your retirement assets. Whatever the most important things are, make sure that you have an actual, physical list of those things. As your case progresses, there will be times when conflict is high. When that happens, review your list. Make sure you aren’t spending resources and fighting for something that you really don’t care about. At times it is our nature to fight because we know we’re right. Remember that fighting costs money. Remember your priorities so that you can decide whether something is worth spending your hard earned money to fight for.
- Good Communication!
Remember that your lawyer is charging you for time. That means, every time they take a phone call from you, every time they open an email from you, every time they listen to a voicemail from you, the clock is ticking. Make sure that every communication you make moves your case forward. Divorce is a stressful process that causes anxiety, and sometimes talking to an expert can make you feel less anxious. But remember, lawyers are not therapists. Before you send that email or make that call to your lawyer, ask yourself whether you need legal assistance at this moment, or whether this is an issue that could be better dealt with by a therapist, counselor, family member or friend. As attorneys, we love helping people, but remember that our time comes at a considerable cost to you.
- If you can Mediate… MEDIATE!
Finally, and most importantly, remember that a conflict based divorce is always expensive. Even if you follow all of the advice above, you are going to spend more than you want on this process. And remember, your spouse will be spending money with an attorney too! If possible, try to remove attorney fees altogether and mediate your divorce settlement with your spouse. The number one factor that makes divorce so expensive is conflict. Mediation changes that paradigm and makes divorce about collaboration and consensus instead of conflict. Do a favor for yourself, your children and yes, even your future ex-spouse, and mediate your case if possible.
Interested in learning more about mediation? Contact us at (314) 862-0202. We are located at 7101 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri 63130. If we are too far away to help you mediate in person, we can help anyone from Illinois or Missouri mediate via Zoom. We would be delighted to talk with you directly!