TIPS TO CONTROL COSTS IN A DIVORCE
When you’re stuck in an emotional battle with your soon-to-be ex-spouse and it feels like money is flying out the door and the fees are mounting faster than the results. These tips will help you understand how to better manage your divorce so costs don’t skyrocket out of control. The number one reason that divorce fees get out of control is leading the fight with your heart instead of your head. The more your emotions get away from you, the more you fight and the more expensive your divorce will be. While you cannot control your spouse and they may be the primary reason that your divorce is costing so much particularly if your spouse is mentally ill, unwilling to compromise or just vindictive; however, they cannot continue the battle by themselves. While you may be playing a much, much smaller role than your spouse, you can take control of yourself and your actions.
A blog post by Attorney Tajara Dommershausen. Here are some practical steps to decrease the cost of your divorce:
There are many documents that you will be required to produce during your divorce; however, don’t give them to your attorney bit by bit or make your attorney ask repeatedly for documents. Put them together by account type with tabs (retirement, bank accounts, personal property, credit cards etc), and in chronological order. Delivering the documents in a timely, organized manner will save you hundreds of dollars.
Do your own leg work
There are many documents that you can access on your own. Don’t force your attorney to send subpoenas for information to your service providers or to the other attorney, if you can get them yourself do so. Before hiring appraisers, see if you can get a realtor to give you a fair market value of your home. Go to kbb.com and value your vehicle. Make a comprehensive list of your debts and assets. Run a credit report to see if there are outstanding bills you did not know about. Provide all of this information to your attorney in an organized fashion. Again doing this work yourself can save you tons of money.
Get a good therapist
A good therapist can help you get your emotions under control and give you strategies to deal with your spouse so conflict in a productive manner. With the right strategies and with proper motivation (such as saving for a fabulous vacation instead of paying for a horrible divorce) you can learn to communicate better with your spouse.
Get a good friend
If you cannot afford or can’t find a good therapist, find a good friend who can help you work through these issues but won’t throw gasoline on the fire of your marital conflict. While you need supportive friends during a high conflict divorce, you don’t need friends escalating the fight which will cost you more money.
Talk to your attorney
After some of the initial emotions have died down, sit down and discuss your case and your goals with your attorney again. Often at the start of the process when emotions are running high, your goals might have been different. If you told your attorney that you wanted all the property, full custody of the children, and were willing to pay anything to make it happen, you need to let them know if that is no longer the case. Often you can spend more on the fight then what you would get from the court in the long term. You need to discuss what lengths you are willing to go (ie are willing to pay for) to get the results you want. The attorney can tell you your best and worst case scenarios to help you see the big picture. You need to prioritize what is most important to you and communicate those priorities to your attorney. This will reduce your divorce fees and the emotional cost.
Talk to your spouse
The more that you can agree on the less you have to pay your attorney to argue about. If you have discussed your case with your attorney you will know your options and can have a productive discussion with your spouse. Obviously, you do not wish to put yourself in harm’s way but even agreeing on small items can reduce your costs. Spending hundreds and attorney’s fees to fight over personal property worth $50 is not worth it.
Don’t use your attorney as your therapist
Attorneys give good, practical advice but you should not use them as your therapist (see tip 3 and 4). You pay your attorney for every email and phone call. You get better paying for your buck with a list of 10 questions versus sending 10 emails with one question each. Make each contact with your attorney or their staff count. Have a specific list of questions and concerns. Present them in an organized manner. Don’t spend your time lamenting that your soon to be ex is a jerk. Your attorney will agree with you; however, often there is nothing legally that the attorney can do to stop run of the mill jerk behavior. Use your attorney’s time for things that they can legally accomplish.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
and in the long term, a lot of it is small stuff. Every issue of contention does not need to become World War III. Figure out your priorities and express those priorities to your attorney. A year from now will care which TV you get with what movies? Will it matter to you that you didn’t get the vacuum cleaner? Will it matter if you exchange the kids at 7:00 on Easter versus at 6:00 make a difference in your or your kids everyday life? Pick the battles that will actually affect your future happiness.
Will following these tips make your divorce quick, cheap and painless? No. Divorces always cost more both emotionally and financially than anyone wants them to; however, following these tips will reduce your costs and fees and help the process feel less stressful.
If you need help with the divorce process please call Petit & Dommershausen at 920-739-9900