Managing the Costs of Your Divorce
Posted by Carlie Berke, CDFA®
June 28, 2017
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou
… Nor can you control your wallet in the case of divorce. In the United States, the average cost of a wedding is $28,000 and the average divorce costs $15,000-$20,000 and can vary significantly. The purpose of this article is how to save money on attorney fees.
Remember, attorneys are not therapists or financial planners so try to take care of as much as you can with other professionals.
CONFLICT IS EXPENSIVE:
First and foremost, conflict costs, the more conflict, the more cost. Before meeting with attorneys, try to work out the emotional issues with your spouse so that you can focus on what the attorney can help you with which are legal matters. As the saying goes, “you get more with honey than with vinegar”. Be kind to your spouse; it will save you stress, time and money. Many divorcing couples seek therapy together or on their own to help with the emotional turmoil caused by divorce. Remember, attorneys are not therapists or financial planners so try to take care of as much as you can with other professionals. Their hourly rates tend to be significantly lower than attorneys.
“The more you understand your rights and how your circumstances impact your divorce, the more you will be able to communicate effectively with your attorney.”
The other major factor to controlling your legal costs is to be prepared. If you educate yourself on the divorce process through books, divorce workshops, divorce coaches, etc. you will enable you to do some of the work yourself. “Knowledge is Power.” The more you understand your rights and how your circumstances impact your divorce, the more you will be able to communicate effectively with your attorney.
Knowledge is Power.
Do not underestimate how important organization is in the divorce process. The process requires gathering legal and financial and tax documents and it can be overwhelming. Consider hiring a personal assistant or CDFA® (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) to help you gather all the necessary documents and the CDFA® or other financial expert can more cost effectively help you analyze and prepare the necessary financial disclosures. You do not want to pay your attorney to gather or organize your paperwork.
“Before paying that retainer, be sure that you have a written agreement with the attorney that clearly defines what you are hiring them to do, place limits on how much they can charge you and what work they are doing on your behalf.”
UNDERSTAND ATTORNEY FEES:
The nuts and bolts of how to manage the divorce meter, is to know that typically lawyers charge in 1/10 of hour increments, which is 6 minutes at a time. If you call your attorney and chitchat about your day, how you’re feeling and so forth, cha ching for your lawyer. At $500 per hour, that chitchat for the first 6 minutes just cost you $50!
Divorce attorneys often charge large, upfront retainer fees. Before paying that retainer, be sure that you have a written agreement with the attorney that clearly defines what you are hiring them to do, place limits on how much they can charge you and what work they are doing on your behalf. Remember, every email they read and every phone call and meeting, you are being charged. Email is a better means to communicate as you avoid the temptation to let discussions get into emotional versus legal issues. It is important to be in a good place emotionally so you can manage the attorney closely and be clear upfront about your priorities.
Going into divorce emotionally strong, educated about the process and understanding your priorities will help reduce the costs of divorce not only financially, but emotionally as well.
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