“How to Reduce the Cost of Your Divorce.”
Divorce is expensive. There is absolutely no way around it. Between the court fees, process servers, legal fees and paralegal/document costs, each person seeking a divorce spends an average of $20,000 EACH! But there is hope. With proper planning and preparation there are ways that you can save money during your divorce. Follow this step by step plan and rack up the savings and “How to Reduce the Cost of Your Divorce.”
1. Determine your objectives. Think about the issues that must be resolved in your case including custody issues, property issues, debts, alimony and any other issues that will need to be worked out. Consider the range of outcomes that you can live with for each issue and think about your best case, worse case, and the happy medium you can live with.
2. Gather your resources. Once you have a practical idea of the issues that you will be addressing you can begin gathering your resources. Gathering your resources refers to both financial and emotional resources.
Many people end up borrowing money from family, friends, retirement accounts or home equity to fund their divorce. Consider how much you are willing to spend to achieve your objectives and do a cost benefit analysis associated with your best case and worse case scenario. For instance, if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake you should be prepared to defend your position and make whatever short term arrangements you need to in order to protect your future. If you are your spouse have no children and are dividing debt, it probably isn’t worth it to hire a lawyer to duke it out.
Also gather your emotional support resources. One of the reasons people end up spending so much money is that they tend to use their lawyer as a friend or sounding board. While a certain amount of emotional support should be expected from your attorney, you should not go to your attorney for advise and support. They are not equipped to give you good counseling and they are far too expensive in that role
3. Know your Options. Depending on your budget and the issues in your case, you will need to determine whether or not you take care of your divorce without the assistance of an attorney, with minimal or some assistance from an attorney, or if you need an attorney to handle your entire case.
- Should you DIY? Between 80%-90% of individuals represent themselves in family court. Sometimes this works out very well and other times, it can be disastrous. If you decide to represent yourself there are things you can do to avoid disaster.
- Take advantage of free resources. Before you file anything, educate yourself about your local laws and procedures. Check out any local free resources geared toward education including seminars, webinars, articles, and/or free consultations with attorneys. There are also companies cropping up geared toward self-represented litigants like Access Legal. Access Legal is a company designed by Modern Law to help self-representing individuals in Maricopa and Pinal County! You can find local documents and resources. Be wary of companies simply providing “forms” to all states. They are not likely to offer all of the resources you need in order to protect yourself.
- Consider using an attorney on a limited scope basis. Just because you decide to represent yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t use an attorney for anything. Many attorneys are now offering “limited scope” or “unbundled” legal services. This means that you hire an attorney for pieces of your case, but not to do everything. This can be a very viable option for those who have complicated issues but don’t have $20,000 or more to spend on an attorney. Consider doing the preliminary paperwork yourself and gathering documents and information and then hiring an attorney to represent you in court. By doing some of the work yourself you can cut down on the overall costs and still get many of the benefits of having an attorney involved. You can truly craft this option to your case and budget. Make sure you find an experienced attorney (one with at least two years experience in YOUR area) and one who is familiar with practicing limited scope legal services. Inexperienced attorneys will not be able to equip you with the knowledge you need when they are not responsible for your case. Likewise, if an attorney is unfamiliar with limited scope legal services he or she may not offer the best resources or advice for working together.
- Modern Law has been using limited scope legal services extensively for the last five years. We can work with you to determine the best way to use your budget and work with you on a limited scope basis.
- When you have a traditional attorney. There are some people who should not represent themselves. This could be because the issues are very complex and there is so much to lose or be gained in a given case. If have retained an attorney to represent you, there are still things that you can do to keep your costs under control.
- Consider alternative payment arrangements. If you know you want an attorney to handle all aspects of your divorce, consider proposing a flat fee arrangement. This will only work if you have a good deal of cash to shell out up front, but could save you considerable money in the long term. If you are able to negotiate a flat fee with your attorney, you will not have to worry about monthly invoices or by-the minute-billing. This could make the arrangement much more beneficial and stress free for you. However, some attorneys who work on a flat fee basis may charge between $20,000-$50,000 for a flat fee divorce.
- Get Organized. Deliver to your attorney a complete set of the documents that they have requested in an organized and easy to understand format. If you need assistance with this, hire someone to help you at home! It will be much less expensive than paying an attorney to organize your documents.
- Be disciplined in your communications. Resist the urge to email or call your attorney every time your ex does something that you don’t like. Instead, keep a journal of your thoughts and questions and put together a thorough email once a week of everything that you consider important. Alternatively, schedule a meeting to go over your questions with your attorney.
- Remember your objectives. Resist the urge to get caught up in the details and drama of your case. Continue to reference your goals and objectives and remember what you determined you “could live with.” People rarely get everything that they are asking for in a divorce and it makes sense to continually do a cost benefit analysis of each and every step your attorney proposed.
By staying purposeful, you can help control your divorce costs and outcome. Make sure you are working with someone you trust. If you are uncomfortable in your current situation, consider making a change. Call us today at 480-649-2905.