If you are thinking about divorce or have already started the process, you might be wondering whether this divorce will cost you a fortune as you add up all the dollars being spent – over the course of a seemingly never-ending process.
In answer to the question “how much will my divorce cost?” there is both good news and bad news. The bad news first: the total cost of your attorney’s fees is extremely difficult to predict. The good news, however, is that by doing some planning and legwork, you can reduce the amount of these fees and have more control over the outcome you want. Specifically:
1. Plan for the worse case scenario. Immediately start saving for your divorce, much as you would for any transitional circumstance such as losing your job, becoming seriously ill, or even retiring from work to pursue your passion. You might also consult with a certified financial planner to help you decide how best to put this money aside. Another suggestion is to try to arrange with family members or close friends to help you with the finances.
2. Don’t settle for less than the best. Be sure to hire a lawyer who practices exclusively in divorce and family matters and has a settlement oriented approach. When a lawyer approaches divorce as a “win or lose” battlefield, you end up paying dearly for that attitude as the divorce war drags on. Also, don’t be fooled into believing that your divorce will be cheaper if a lawyer has a low hourly rate or charges a low retainer. Both could be red flags for less experience or a way to get your business.
If you discover that the lawyer you chose is not as skilled, experienced, or as reasonable as you had originally believed, immediately move on to one who is. You are likely to save money in the long run. It is important that if you have children and assets that you want to protect, your first concern should not be getting divorced as cheaply as possible. Like any good investment, you have to spend money to achieve your goals.
3. Become intimately familiar with your finances. Gather all of the documentation for each of your assets and assess their values and then plan out your monthly needs and expenses on a spreadsheet. Consult with a good certified financial planner and/or accountant to learn how you can best meet your long term and short term financial goals. This will significantly assist you and your lawyer in calculating such needs or obligations as alimony and child support.
4. Make agreement with your spouse your goal. The more you and your spouse are able to agree on, the less you will spend on attorneys. Sit down with your spouse and mutually decide as many issues as possible, such as where the children will live, when each of you will spend time with them, and how you will divide the home, retirement accounts, and debts. If you are having difficulty, you might enlist the services of a good trained mediator. In general, the issues that take the most time and cost to resolve involve alimony and child custody. If you can resolve these on your own, you will very likely significantly reduce your overall attorney fees.
If you have any questions about your particular matter, please contact me to schedule a consultation or forward this article to someone you believe would find it helpful.