According to some sources the average cost of divorce in the U.S. is $15,000 but ending your marriage could easily run much higher especially if you’re letting your emotions make your decisions. This is a concern for most people and fortunately there are ways to manage these expenses.
Use Your Experts Wisely
You will likely find yourself working with a team of experts – an attorney, a Realtor, a therapist, an accountant, a coach … Each has their area of expertise and you should try to keep your conversations with a particular expert within their area of expertise. For example, venting to your attorney about your ex is not going to be any more productive than discussing with your therapist what is and is not a marital asset. If you start relaying the latest in your on-going saga with your ex to your attorney, they may find it difficult to stop you: none of us like to appear unsympathetic or dispassionate and while you’re offloading, the clock is running.
Understand How The Charging Works
Before you start working with a professional, get a clear understanding of how they will be billing you.Your attorney will likely charge you by time spent on your case but that’s not just their time. It’s anyone in their office who works on your case although that may be at a different rate. It also means that you’ll be charged for time spent on phone calls, and reading and responding to emails. Your accountant probably also charges on a time spent basis.
Your therapist may be covered by your health insurance however you may have a deductible to meet first and there may be a cap on the number of covered visits. If your therapist is “out-of-network” then your share of the cost will be higher and you might consider looking for another therapist.
A Realtor typically works on commission and while that means no direct charge to you, it is important that you read any agreement before signing so you understand the terms, rates and where the commission ultimately comes from.
Do Your Own Research
You may be able to save on hourly billings by doing some legwork yourself. In the legal area for example, you can research the basic forms of divorce (tradition, mediation and collaborative), how the divorce process works in your state and the definition of a marital asset in your state. This equips you with some base knowledge, saves your attorney from have to explain all this and means you can spend that time on questions about your particular situation.
With your finances, the IRS website is a rich source of information where you can find out how your separation might affect your filing status and get an idea of the tax treatment on the division of different type of assets. Again, armed with this basic information you can have a more detailed discussion with your accountant.
You can also ask your experts what you can do to save expenses. Your attorney might say that by filing as a co-petitioner you’ll save on some fees and the cost of having the papers served. If you’ve consulted with your attorney, know your legal position, and you and your STBX have come to an agreement you’re satisfied with, then you could save on legal fees by filing an online divorce [affiliate] using a service like My Divorce Papers to create the necessary legal documents for you to file yourselves.
Choose Your Battles
When it comes to tangibles like personal belongings, investments and even debts, your decision should be based on a cost-benefit analysis rather than emotional rationale. The cost-benefit analysis isn’t always straightforward especially where future benefits are concerned however, your experts should be able to help you put a dollar figure on the benefit and you can weigh that against what it could cost you. Those costs include not only the professional fees but also the costs of your own time.
Parenting battles fall into different territory and can be much harder to assess especially when it comes to questions of access, values and morals. However, with no guarantees in custody battles, it’s still important to choose your battles. Does what you’re fighting over jeopardize your child’s safety or well-being? Are you truly acting in your child’s interest? Is incurring significant debt the best way you can support your child? Are there alternative, albeit unconventional solutions?
Talk To Your Spouse
The more you and your STBX can agree on together, the more you will save in professional fees. Once you both know your respective legal rights, then you can discuss the division of assets together and you can discuss your parenting plan. If you are able to communicate, then this is far more efficient than routing each issue through your respective attorneys. Chances are you won’t be able to agreed on everything so agree on what you can and then refer the remaining issues to your attorneys.
Spending your hard earned money on divorce-related expenses may seem like a waste and it maybe tempting to just skip some of the professional expertise altogether. This is not something I would advise. It’s a false economy and one spouse recommending this is often a red flag that they are attempting to undercut their partner’s legal rights. I prefer to see these professional fees as an investment in the future because what you negotiate as your divorce settlement will have profound and lasting effects for years to come.
Have you found other ways to manage your legal expenses?