Divorce can bring up many emotions, questions, and concerns. You may be feeling angry or betrayed by your spouse. If you have children, you are probably wondering what impact your Divorce will have on them.
Somewhere on your list of concerns is the financial impact of a divorce. Not only can the divorce itself cost money in court fees and legal fees if you hired a lawyer, but you will also likely have to divide some of your marital assets between yourself and your spouse. Your financial situation is likely to change during divorce. While you cannot prevent all of these changes, there are several things you can do to save money during a painful divorce.
Know Your Finances
Getting familiar with your finances can save you money during your divorce process. Since you will need to disclose your assets and wealth to a court during your divorce case, being up front and accurately making that disclosure can save you time and money. You can fill out a draft of the financial disclosure statement using your knowledge of your own financial situation. This will save your Attorney time conducting discovery and will save you money.
Make sure you have supporting documents for the information in your financial disclosures. Supporting documents can be anything that offers proof of your income, assets, and other financials. Good supporting documents include:
- W2 forms;
- Credit card balances;
- Bank statements;
- Account balances;
- Financial statements of any businesses you own; and
- Past tax returns.
Gathering all this information will also help you familiarize yourself with your financial situation, so you can begin the divorce process with a better idea of what you need.
Work with Your Spouse When Possible
While emotions may be running high, working together with your spouse to reach an Agreement on as many issues as possible can save you a lot of money. Even if there are things you know you cannot agree on, try to at least discuss the things that you may be able to work out. Maybe you can both talk reasonably about property division. Doing so will allow you to come to an agreement on that issue, so you can put the terms you agreed upon in your divorce agreement. If the two of you can come to a basic understanding of your desired terms without the help of the court, mediators, and attorneys, this will save you the cost of legal fees.
It is important to remember that if you try to work with your spouse and you feel like you are not getting a fair agreement, then you should table the discussion and come back to it when you have hired or consulted an attorney. You should not compromise the terms of your divorce agreement just to save money. However, if you and your spouse can easily figure out terms that satisfy both of you, this will benefit you both.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
When you are deciding on which divorce lawyer to hire, you should make sure that your attorney is experienced in handling divorce matters. An attorney with specific experience handling divorce cases in your state will know the law well. This can save you money as your attorney will likely need to spend less time researching issues. Of course, you want your attorney to take their time and do the best possible job with every aspect of your divorce case. More experienced attorneys, however, tend to need less time to properly handle the same tasks that take newer attorneys more time.
An experienced divorce attorney is also less likely to make mistakes that can cost you in the long run. For example, a poorly drafted divorce agreement can lead to disputes in a few years if you and your ex spouse have different interpretations of a term’s meaning. Disputes over various aspects of the divorce agreement can end with both of you going back to court, so a judge can rule on what the agreement says. It is much better to avoid the stress and cost of later issues by hiring an attorney who will do a thorough job the first time.
Know What You’re Paying For
Before you hire an attorney, talk to them about your fee arrangement. Make sure you know how they handle billing. Most divorce attorneys charge an hourly fee. However, some may handle your entire case for a flat fee, and others, like Vantage Group Legal in Chicago, offer subscription legal services at a set monthly rate. It’s important to understand the attorney’s fee structure before you decide to hire them.
Divorce attorneys usually require you to pay a retainer before they start working on your caseThe amount of the retainer will likely depend on how complex the attorney expects your case to be. The attorney will hold the money in an account and charge the fee for their hours worked on your case against that account. It is important to be aware of the specifics of the retainer agreement, including the attorney’s hourly rate and the rate charged for paralegals and assistants..
Your retainer will not necessarily cover the entire cost of your case. If the retainer runs out, the attorney will expect you to replenish it. If your attorney uses a retainer, they should provide you with regular statements so you can keep track of what you’ve been billed.
Regardless of how your attorney structures payment, make sure you read the entire fee agreement so you know exactly what it covers. Some attorneys charge for their travel and mailing expenses. It is important to know exactly what your agreement covers so you can budget ahead of time. Getting divorced is stressful enough without receiving a bill full of surprises after your case settles.
Pursue Other Resolution Options
In a divorce, alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, is often a less expensive alternative to litigating in court. Mediation is a less formal process that can help you and your spouse negotiate a divorce agreement with the help of neutral mediators. A third party’s input can help to calm emotions and ease tensions so you can work together to decide on terms that benefit both of you. This will allow you to avoid the long process of a resolution in court and save you lots of money on legal fees. Before you hire an attorney, ask whether they are familiar with alternative dispute resolution and whether it is a realistic option given the details of your case.