Unless you and your spouse are in full agreement with such major marital issues as child custody, visitation, support payments, and the equitable distribution of your assets and debts, your divorce may be very costly. It makes little sense to see your bank account drained of funds because you are angry at your spouse and wish to see he or she “pay” for disrespecting you or for making seemingly unreasonable demands.
Coming to terms with the fact that your marital relationship is now over, or irretrievable, may be difficult but you must recognize that if your marriage has minor children and there are joint assets, compromises will need to be made and your life will not be the same.
With this revelation, take some steps to minimize your legal fees so that you can keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible.
1. Educate yourself about divorce
You can find valuable information about the divorce process on the internet or by having a free or low cost consultation with a divorce lawyer. You can often find how issues that apply to your case are handled or resolved such as calculating child support or seeing if spousal maintenance is possible. Also, if you were married outside of Massachusetts, you might be able to obtain a divorce in the other state if it is much less expensive.
2. Make a list of issues you can agree upon
Sit down with your spouse and make a list of the issues in dispute and those in which you agree. Make comments about why you feel you should have custody or a particular asset and why your spouse feels otherwise. In many cases, you can reach an agreement on at least some issues you thought were intractable.
3. Be willing to compromise
Most divorce expenses come from the parties’ failure to agree on child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance and the division of assets and debts. A marriage with minor children or one with considerable assets can be complicated, but compromising will save you considerable legal fees. If you are at an impasse, try mediation before a neutral third party who can often persuade you and your spouse to arrive at a settlement that may not be entirely to your satisfaction but which avoids a worse outcome should a court rule against you.
Also, remember that attorneys charge by the hour. They will require a retainer against which their fees will be charged. Many lawyers charge $300 or more per hour, so calling to complain about your spouse will cost you a minimum of $30 for just a few minutes. Use the time wisely by writing out your question first or by researching it and then discussing it.
4. If you have real estate or other valuable assets, consider having a financial professional assess their value.
An attorney can retain someone to do this but the cost will be much more unless you retain one yourself. Get as much documentation as possible of an asset’s value including life insurance policies, annuities, other retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, luxury items and real estate.
5. Curtail or sacrifice superfluous expenses
Legal fees are not the only expenses to be concerned with since you have to realize that a divorce will lead to a change in your life and lifestyle. For example, paying $600 per month for a trainer at your health club may be an extravagance you can sacrifice or the Hawaiian golf vacation this year or next may have to postponed. If you were used to living with two incomes, you will certainly have to decide what you can live without.
6. Respect yourself, your spouse and the process
It makes little sense to remain angry about a divorce and to allow your resentment to prevent you from compromising on issues that will probably not end in your favor. Your spouse is entitled to live a reasonable life and if children are involved, consider the emotional impact on them if you continually trash your spouse.
Finally, realize that you can do much of the leg work and that long phone calls and meetings with your attorney may be unnecessary. Recognize that compromising or using alternative dispute resolution can save you not only money but lead to a civil resolution with no future resentments.
Consult Boston divorce lawyer Doug Lovenberg for all of your divorce questions. As a successful divorce lawyer serving clients in the Boston area, he has helped his clients achieve satisfactory resolutions of their divorce cases at a reasonable cost and usually without protracted litigation. He can also suggest ways you can reduce the cost of your divorce while ensuring that your rights in a divorce are protected and that an equitable outcome is obtained.