Many divorces are too complex for the parties to handle alone. Understanding the combined assets and how they should be split can be overwhelming and complicated, and issues regarding children can be too emotional to take on alone. So lawyers are brought on to help resolve the issues and reach an amicable agreement. Just because a lawyer is required, however, doesn’t mean that the divorce has to be prohibitively expensive. The couple seeking the divorce can do quite a few things to help reduce the financial cost of the divorce so that it doesn’t end up being more of a burden than necessary.
What’s Worth Fighting For?
Every conflict that divorcing spouses have could cost them money. So, it’s in your mutually best interests to individually determine what is worth battling over and what isn’t. It’s natural to be emotional during a divorce, but the most important thing you can do to save money on the process is to negotiate with one another and come to an agreement on everything you can without the aid of a lawyer. Only those items that you consider to be nonnegotiable are really worth paying a lawyer to help you hash out.
Take the Time to Find a Good Attorney
The criteria you use when choosing the right divorce lawyer will include his or her fees. However, attorneys with experience and a good track record can be more beneficial in the long run. They may cost a bit more upfront, but experienced lawyers possess the required knowhow to resolve issues in the best interests of their clients, whether that means their clients end up paying less or getting more.
Additionally, keep in mind that out-of-town attorneys charge for travel time, so location is important. Also, consider whether or not you need a high priced specialty lawyer at all. For example, if you have already agreed on asset division then you don’t necessarily need a pricey lawyer who specializes in forensic accounting.
As they say, time is money, and for an attorney, the saying is literal. Prior to communicating with your attorney, whether on the phone, in person, or through email, consider exactly what it is you want to say or ask. Is it imperative, or can it wait? Do you have other questions that can be added to the list? Is your question something a paralegal can answer? Take time to think through all communications because as soon as you have your lawyer’s attention, he is on the clock.
Roll Up Your Sleeves
You may not be able to see the divorce through on your own, but you can certainly be a critical part of the team. By taking on much of the process yourself, you can save significant money on attorney and paralegal fees. By doing little tasks yourself, such as making your own copies and phone calls, and tracking court dates and Court Orders, you will also have a little more insight into the process and, specifically, your own case.
Hire a Mediator
Finally, it might sound counterintuitive to suggest that you hire an additional person when you’re trying to save money. However, hiring a neutral, experienced mediator can literally save thousands of dollars in litigation fees. Some states require mediation, so check with your state court to determine whether you live in such a state.
Getting a divorce is painful enough without the added stress of the expense. But, by following the tips listed here, you can save significant money in fees and costs. That’s money you can use for a fresh start.
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Divorce is painful, time consuming, and it can be very expensive. However, if you are seeking a divorce that will be uncontested, and it will be fairly simple because there won’t be many assets to divvy up, it is possible that you can save a significant amount of money by filing yourself. A word of caution, though, because there are situations where a do-it-yourself divorce wouldn’t make sense, and, in fact, would be detrimental.
Are You a Good Candidate?
If your family’s assets and debts are straightforward, and you have all of the necessary related documentation at your disposal, then you may be a good candidate. Most importantly, though, it is critical that you and your spouse are in full agreement on all matters, including child custody and support, alimony (if applicable), and division of property. If there is animosity between you, or if you don’t have the time or patience to follow through, then it’s best to seek professional legal counsel.
People You Should Consult
Keep in mind that just because you feel that a do-it-yourself divorce is a good fit for your situation, that doesn’t mean that you will go it entirely alone. There are still several people you should consult along the way to ensure that you aren’t making any missteps. For example, your first stop should be to the county clerk’s office in your state. It’s a good place to start because, while the clerks are prohibited from giving legal advice, they can provide detailed answers to your questions about paperwork and the court procedure.
If you need help preparing and filing the paperwork, it pays to contact a paralegal, or legal document preparer. They cannot give legal advice, but they can assist you in completing the forms and filing them with the court system. The cost will vary depending on your location, as well as other factors, including whether or not there will be a settlement, alimony paid, or if you have children. However, the cost of hiring a paralegal will pale in comparison to that of a lawyer. A paralegal will typically charge under $1000 to prepare and file your divorce documents.
An alternative to using a paralegal is the phenomenon of web-based services. It can be less expensive and a bit more convenient. However, online services are typically geared toward very simple divorces. Before signing on with a web-based service, make sure they are rated by the Better Business Bureau, and peruse online reviews.
Taxes are another consideration when divorcing. Depending on issues like the status of assets, as well as the age and number of dependents, divorce can carry with it some long term tax burdens. So it’s important that you educate yourself. Consider consulting a tax preparer, forensic accountant, or financial advisor who specializes in family or divorce issues. You may be charged for a consultation, so be prepared with information and documents they will need, as well as a complete list of questions you want answered. Seeking tax and asset advice is well worth the time and nominal fee to ensure that you avoid tax penalties.
The divorce process can be very costly, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re a good candidate for a do-it-yourself divorce, and you seek the right support from highly qualified professionals, you can save a lot of money, stress and time.
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The thought of seeking a divorce is devastating and emotionally draining. When you factor in the prospect of entrusting such an important process to a lawyer who is a complete stranger, the stress can escalate exponentially. So, how can you be sure that the lawyer you choose will be proficient and knowledgeable enough to help you mire through all of the confusing paperwork and legal steps that the process requires? How do you find a lawyer who will ‘get’ you, treat you compassionately, and always keep your best interests in mind? By following three time-tested steps.
No one wants to advertise that they are looking for a divorce lawyer, but speaking with those closest to you is the best way to ensure that you will end up with the right lawyer for your needs. By speaking with your clergy, teachers, close coworkers, friends, family, therapist, or family doctor, you can get some quality, trustworthy leads. Even if they don’t have the name of a specific lawyer, perhaps someone will know of the name of a reputable legal firm or referral center that can help.
Alternatively, your Local or State Bar Association may provide lists of divorce lawyers who are certified in your area. Lawyers specializing in specific areas of law, such as family law, are typically required to pass exams focusing on their specialty prior to becoming certified.
The interview process sounds harrowing, but the goal is to identify which lawyer you feel will work best for and with you. There is no set number of candidates to interview, but you should take time to talk to at least three lawyers. Whether your interview will be in person or on the telephone, make sure that you’re prepared with the following information and documents: three years of tax returns, current custodial agreement (if applicable), detailed list of assets, income and debts for both spouses, and timeline of the relationship (include relevant events).
In addition, prepare your list of topics ahead of time to expedite the interview and ensure that you don’t miss any important information. Also, make sure you ask critical questions about how long the lawyer has been practicing family law, how many staff members he or she has, and how many cases they take on at one time. You need to know that your attorney will have enough time and a big enough staff to devote to your case.
Listen carefully to the lawyer’s responses and, if the interview is in person, note his or her body language. Does he seem sincere, or does it come off like a sales pitch? How are the two of you relating to one another? It is a business relationship, but this is someone who will be by your side during one of the most trying periods of your life, so how well you communicate and work together is crucial.
After your interviews are complete, take a breather and review your notes carefully, reflecting on each experience. Often one lawyer will stand out well above the others as the obvious choice, however, it’s still important to take your time with the decision. While it is possible to change your lawyer midstream if you end up making the wrong decision, it’s a difficult and exhausting (not to mention expensive) task to have to start from scratch. So, it is obviously better to get it right the first time. After all, your divorce lawyer is one of the people who will be the most instrumental in helping you restart your life.
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