10 Tips for a Low Cost Divorce
The emotional costs of divorce are high. Combine that with the financial strain of a costly legal process, and it can be difficult for you (and your kids) to move forward with a happy and productive life.
As a family law attorney, I advise my clients with strategies to minimize both the distressing emotional and financial costs of divorce. You can reduce stress and achieve a low cost divorce by following a few general guidelines:
1. Figure out what’s really important to you.
Every conflict in the divorce process will cost you. Therefore, you will need to choose your battles wisely. Before you can do that, however, you need to know what will be most important to you after divorce. Is it custody? Is it your family home? Is it financial security? Once you decide, you and your divorce lawyer can focus the majority of the costs on the most important items first.
2. Don’t turn every issue into a fight. Negotiate.
Remember, conflict costs money. And while some fights are worth the cost, some probably aren’t. Using a legal process to fight over a piece of furniture, for instance, will probably cost you more than the object is worth. Focus on negotiation in your divorce process when possible - this will save you both financial and emotional costs.
3. Focus on the long-term when it comes to finances.
Divorce is an event that affects the rest of your life, including your financial future. Look at every financial issue in your divorce from the perspective of how it will affect you (and your children) in five or ten years. This will help you make smarter financial decisions, and you are much more likely to get a divorce settlement that is most financially advantageous for your future.
4. Be organized and prepared.
If you are able to do the work of gathering and organizing your financial information and other relevant documents without the help of your legal team, it will save you time and costs.
5. Don’t try to get divorced without an attorney.
Naturally, a divorce lawyer is going to recommend that you talk to a divorce lawyer. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Find a good divorce lawyer. Unless your divorce is exceptionally simple (no property, no children, no debt, no house, no conflict), it is advisable to at least consult a reputable divorce lawyer. Often, a lawyer will help you discover issues that you were not aware of. Working with a family law attorney, while not cheap, can help you avoid making mistakes in your divorce that could end up costing you a lot of money down the road.
6. Consider alternative forms of dispute resolution, like mediation or arbitration.
Going to trial is expensive. While trial may be necessary to resolve genuine disputes, mediation and arbitration are alternatives to court and are almost always less costly. These processes are often quicker, as well, and can be less adversarial than a trial.
7. Communicate efficiently.
Every time you communicate with your divorce lawyer, it costs you money. This is an area where so many clients could reduce costs. So, don’t instantly pick up the phone or send an email to your lawyer for every issue you think of. Try this instead:
- Take note of the issue and spend a little time thinking about it. Is it urgent? Can it wait? What other information do you need about the issue?
- Try not to call or email your lawyer until you have multiple issues to discuss.
- Make sure that you have all the pertinent details at hand when you make contact.
- If you have a question that your lawyer’s paralegal could probably answer, contact them first.
These tips can reduce the number of calls and emails between you and your attorney, and make your communications more efficient at the same time. This is a huge cost saver.
8. Take advantage of your divorce lawyer’s support staff.
Divorce lawyers often have paralegals and legal assistants who can do a lot of the work on your divorce, like filings and document prep, and their hourly rates are going to be lower than your lawyer’s. Before you hire a divorce lawyer, ask what kind of support staff they have and how they can help reduce the costs of your divorce.
9. Do what’s best for your kids.
Healthy, happy kids are priceless, so focus on doing what is best for them and you will not go wrong. If your children come through your divorce feeling loved and safe, this will reduce both the financial and emotional costs of co-parenting your children moving forward.
10. Be completely honest with your divorce lawyer.
In a divorce, surprises cost money. You can prevent some of these unexpected costs by being upfront with your lawyer about your situation. While you can’t control what the other side does, you can make sure that your side of the case doesn’t get sidetracked by giving your lawyer all the information you can as early on in the process as possible.
Please be advised that family law cases can be very complex and are different for everyone, based on unique circumstances. The information provided here should not be construed as legal advice in your case.
McKinley Irvin proudly serves Washington State and Oregon with offices in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Puyallup, Vancouver and Portland. Contact our family law offices to set up an appointment with a McKinley Irvin family attorney.