Many divorces these days are nasty, full of conflict, and all too long, not to mention damned expensive. There’s a saying among divorce attorneys: Love is grand, Divorce is Twenty Grand. With the average cost of divorce in the United States approaching $20,000 it is scary to think about dissolving your marriage. Fortunately there are things you can do to save money on divorce, even if you are working with an attorney.
Educate yourself. Knowledge is power—the more you know about your rights and your particular circumstances, the better off you’ll be. Do your homework before you see an attorney so that you can give your attorney or mediator a clear picture of your situation and what solutions might work best for you. The more groundwork you do organizing your documents and filling out paperwork, the less expensive the process will be.
Do it yourself. Even if you have hired an attorney to help you, review your case with your attorney to determine what you can do yourself and what requires the expertise of your lawyer. The more you do the less it will cost, but it is crucial that you interface with your attorney to follow court procedures and meet deadlines.
Get organized. Gathering together your financial and personal documents is important, but organizing them is even more important. It is very expensive for attorneys to go through documents, so if you have documents logically arranged it will reduce the attorney’s staff time and save you money. If you feel scattered and unfocused and not up to the task, hire a temporary personal assistant who can do that work efficiently and far less expensively than the attorney.
Set a clear course. Going into the divorce with a clear set of priorities will help you pick your battles. Think carefully about what is most important to you, and what is most important to your spouse, and then see if there’s a solution that gives each of you what you want. It’s a simple formula: less conflict equals less fees. Spend thousands of dollars fighting with your soon-to-be-ex over inconsequential issues, and you’ve cut deeply into the money you have to fund your new post-divorce life.
Channel your inner George Washington. Being scrupulously honest with your divorce attorney will save you money in divorce. If you don’t tell the truth and provide all relevant information at the beginning, when the truth is revealed later on it will cost you time and legal fees as your attorney scrambles to change direction, and may even undermine your position.
Don’t confuse your attorney for your therapist. Your attorney is not there to be your therapist or best friend, your attorney is there to give you legal advice and guide your way through the divorce process. Get emotional support from friends, family and your therapist, and when you are with your attorney, be targeted and businesslike. At $500 per hour, just six minutes of chitchat will cost you $50!