Divorce is almost always an emotional and painful experience. Oftentimes, it also can be financially destructive. The following are tips that will save you money in anyone’s divorce case:
- Don’t get distracted by your spouse’s misconduct or the reason why the divorce began. You may believe that the reason for your divorce is the most important factor in your case. Usually it is not. Florida, like many states, is a “no fault” divorce state. That means all you have to prove to become divorced is that irreconcilable differences have caused a breakdown in your marriage. Only one spouse has to assert there has been this breakdown and a divorce will be granted. Marital misconduct does not matter. If you get mired in trying to establish why your spouse is a bad person and that he or she is the reason the divorce began, then you will be wasting a lot of emotional effort and money;
- Understand the billable hour. Remember the majority of family law attorneys charge their time by the hour. Because divorce is an emotional process, clients have a tendency to contact their attorney with every question that arises. Feeling the compulsion to do so is easy to understand. However, the more organized you are when you speak or meet with your lawyer, the less his or her expensive time you will USE in conversation or paper shuffling. Also understand that keeping in touch by email or by facsimile allows your attorney to efficiently work with you, address your questions at a time that he can focus on your case, and devote less time in dealing with the communication. Another good alternative is to work with the attorney’s paralegal and other staff members assigned to your case. These staff people usually bill at a lower hourly rate than your attorney. They can provide a great deal of guidance and although they cannot give you legal advice, they can provide a lot of assistance in terms of paperwork and common sense issues as they may arise;
- Hire a therapist. Many people make the mistake of confusing the expertise of the experts they work with. Your lawyer is the best resource for legal issues. Your financial planner can help you with economic issues. But for the series of emotional challenges presented by the life change in your divorce case, your therapist is the one with the tools to assist you. Divorce is an emotionally devastating process. A therapist is best equipped to help guide you through the grieving process of the loss of your marriage and can do so at a far less hourly rate than talking to your attorney;
- Do your own copying. This may seem like an offbeat bit of advice. However, the disclosure of financial information during a divorce case is a very paper intensive process. It seems like everyone needs copies of everything. Your attorney will bill you at a greater rate for making copies of your paperwork than you will be charged at the local copy center. Consequently, set aside a couple of hours to spend at a copy center and make three or four copies of everything (at least one for your attorney, one for your financial expert and one for yourself);
- Ask professionals to appraise the value of your assets. Almost every marriage, no matter how short, has accumulated some marital assets. Those assets can include personal property (furniture, art work), collectibles, automobiles, pensions, building up a business, etc. Having a professional appraise all of the major contested assets in your case will save you money in the long run. It will provide a basis for you and your spouse to attempt to resolve those financial issues because there should be little or no remaining dispute about the value of any asset;
- Do not fight over personal property. Do you really need lawyers spending their time and your money discussing sofas, beds, kitchen utensils? It is much more cost effective for you and your spouse to make a list, determine what items each of you really want, and negotiate the items of common interest. If the division seems unequal, either shrug it off or find a means of equalizing it through other assets or by the payment of cash. If you have family photos or CDs, then copy them. Often experienced divorce attorneys find that it’s not any specific item that causes controversies in the division of personal property, it is the emotional issue of letting go by their clients that poses the greater challenge. And if you think that your lawyers don’t want to be discussing this issue, I can assure you that judges hate to deal with these types of issues;
- Create a personal budget. Transitioning from one household to two separate households and going from two incomes to one incomes or even having to go back to work, will require major adjustments for both spouses. Each person’s lifestyle will change. Expenses may increase and it can be easy to let yourself fall into debt. Avoid making a bad situation worse by creating and sticking with a budget. Sit down and review your monthly bills and expenses. Compare your budget to the amount of income that you expect to get and account for the support payments that you may be paying or receiving. If you can’t afford all of your expenses, look for ways to reduce them. It’s important to do things that you enjoy.
- Attempt to negotiate rather than litigate. Negotiation and settlement are always far less expensive than litigation. Try to work out a settlement agreement with your spouse. The more that you can settle between yourselves without judges being involved the easier, the less expensive, and more amicable your divorce will become.
- Use Alternative Dispute Resolution methods. Mediation is another non-litigation means of reducing costs of your divorce. If you and your spouse are able to work together, even indirectly, mediation can be a non-adversarial means of deciding the outcome of your divorce. If working with your spouse through a facilitator such as a mediator is uncomfortable for you, another method of resolution is Collaborative Divorce, where both parties and their specially-trained attorneys work together (often with a neutral financial professional, neutral mental health professional, and other experts) to create a settlement in which each party is represented, but the object of the process is to create a settlement in a non-adversarial climate.
Getting divorced is a difficult financial and emotional process. However, following the above suggestions should significantly reduce the cost of your divorce and provide both you, your spouse and your children with more assets and more money to devote to your futures once your divorce is resolved.
To speak with a lawyer about your financial concerns, please contact us online or call 561-478-0312. Charles D. Jamieson proudly represents clients in West Palm Beach, Florida and surrounding areas including Stuart, Jupiter, Boca Raton and Coral Springs.