Divorce can be ugly, but even the most amicable ones are expensive when you consider the loss of your family’s financial status-quo, potential child support payments, the unavoidable court costs, and the extensive legal fees often involved. When looked at together, too often these lead to financial ruin and negatively impact everyone involved, even the children. While you may not be able to stop a divorce from happening, and in fact, it may be quite necessary for your future, you can find ways to save money on legal fees during the torturous process. Here are some ways how:
Understand Your Financial Situation and Disclosures
You may feel tempted to try and hide investments, earnings, or other assets from the court and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. This almost never works out well. In fact, nondisclosure is a sure way to have additional court appearances and more billable hours from your attorney. Instead, you should talk to a financial planner and make a full financial disclosure voluntarily. The end result is likely to be much the same but without the extra fees and time spent in front of a judge. You will also look better in the eyes of the court, which can be invaluable in terms of securing a positive divorce settlement. While financial planners are not cheap, their rates tend to be quite a bit lower than those of legal professionals, making them a wise investment, especially if you have a complex financial portfolio, like retirement accounts.
Get Your Spouse to Pay Your Attorney Fees
In some situations, the court may order one spouse to pay reasonable attorney fees for the other, especially if they could not otherwise afford counsel. The reasoning behind this is that both parties deserve equal representation in the courtroom. The court may not necessarily order all fees to be paid, but even a partial payment of these fees could be substantial. The biggest factor taken into account is economic need. Plus, if you have tried to resolve issues out of court, that may also count in your favor here. Another option is for the fees to be paid out of community property at the end of the divorce litigation. While not as helpful as having the other spouse pay, it does allow for adequate representation and some degree of financial savings, especially during a hardship situation.
Saving Money on Child Support
If you are not the custodial parent, paying child support is in your future. In general terms, support is based on your income, using guidelines set by the courts of your state that are derived from several basic models. The most popular of these is the Income Shares Model. This model takes both parents’ income into account when determining child support payments. The best way to save money, regardless of the model used, is to avoid returning to court to haggle about payment amounts. You will likely pay more anyway, but you will also have additional legal fees. In light of this, if you receive an increase in income, you should elect to increase support voluntarily instead of through a mandated increase in court.
Divorce is a costly experience. It can be made even more so by drawn out proceedings and hotly contested settlements having to do with finances and/or child support. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the cost of attorney fees associated with the divorce process. These can include full disclosure of finances, getting a court order for your spouse to pay the legal fees and being savvy about court-ordered child support. Taken together, these can give you quite a savings at least in terms of what you’ll need to pay your lawyer.