If you are considering a divorce, along with the emotional fallout, you're probably concerned about the financial cost. Divorce costs can quickly escalate when spouses disagree on how to proceed. However, you do have some control over the cost of your divorce. There are several things you can do to help minimize your legal fees and help keep your financial situation more stable. Here are nine suggestions for keeping divorce costs reasonable and securing your financial future.
9 Tips for Reducing the Cost of Divorce
1. Choose Your Divorce Process
The best way to reduce your divorce costs is to avoid a trial. Most attorneys will work to settle your case out of court using negotiation, mediation, and settlement conferences. Go to court only as a last resort when all other efforts have failed. An uncontested divorce will take less time and cost you significantly less.
2. Read Your Retainer Agreement
Some people never read the retainer agreement when they hire a divorce attorney. Make the most of your money by taking the time to read and understand the retainer agreement fully. Make sure to ask any questions you have and ensure you understand their hourly rate and billing practices. It's also important to know if there will be travel time charges or other expenses. Knowing precisely how and when your attorney will be billing you gives you some control over the cost of your divorce.
3. Organize Your Financial Records
Divorce is primarily a financial transaction, so the more you can do to keep your financial records in order, the less time your attorney will spend sorting them out. Prepare a list of all of your marital assets and debts. Gather copies of recent tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, credit card statements, retirement account information, and other critical financial documents. Ask if your attorney’s office prefers to have hard copies or scanned documents.
4. Ask How They Prefer to Communicate
Your attorney's time is money, so be careful about how you use it. Find out their preferred method of communication. Email can be a timesaver if you are clear and concise. Making informed choices about when to call your lawyer and only calling if you cannot resolve an issue without them means you will have fewer costs. If you need to call your attorney, make sure the call is scheduled, and you are prepared and focused on what needs to be discussed. Have a list of questions ready and take notes during the call so you can refer back to them later.
5. Divide Household Items On Your Own
Most couples have many miscellaneous household items to divide. Figuring this out on your own will save on attorney fees. You don't need an attorney to help you divide your furniture and other miscellaneous household items. More valuable assets such as expensive jewelry, art collections, vehicles, and other items may need to be properly appraised and divided with your attorney's help.
6. Be Honest With Your Attorney
Divorce is never a pleasant process, but an experienced divorce attorney can assist you and make the process less stressful. Telling your attorney everything upfront to make your divorce proceedings smoother is essential. Discussing details that may not be favorable to you with your attorney is vital. It's best to avoid having your spouse's lawyer bring up things in negotiations that you have not already discussed with your attorney. Trying to hide unpleasant matters usually makes them more complicated and challenging, especially if your divorce case goes to trial.
7. Be Willing to Compromise
Prolonging a divorce will delay both parties from moving on with their lives. While you may get short-term satisfaction from dragging your divorce out, it is better to look to your future. A much healthier approach is to finalize your divorce as quickly as possible so you can move on and build a happier and financially stable life. Finding ways to compromise with your spouse can be challenging, but your attorney may suggest mediation. Mediation can often help resolve fundamental disagreements and save valuable time and money. Litigation should be a last resort as it will lead to more time and expense.
8. Remember That Your Attorney is Not Your Therapist
Your lawyer should make time for you whenever you need to talk with them, but don't forget they have to charge you for their time. Attorneys are there to provide you with legal counsel and advice. Calling your attorney to discuss emotional issues is something you should keep to a minimum. The emotional struggles of divorce are real, and the best option is to seek assistance from the correct type of professional. Emotional support is available from trained therapists, counselors, of divorce support groups.
9. Follow the Judge's Orders
It should go without saying, but following the judge's instructions and court orders is extremely important. Never disobey a court order. You will likely be held responsible for additional court costs and legal fees your spouse incurs when you don't follow the court's rulings. Most divorce decrees state that the party violating orders must pay court costs and their spouse's legal fees. Your attorney can handle matters for you if you want to modify the court's original rulings. Using proper legal channels is always the best way to handle any issues that arise during or after a divorce.
How a Missouri Divorce Attorney Can Help
Missouri law does not require you to hire a divorce attorney. Many couples file for divorce on their own successfully. However, consulting with an experienced divorce attorney before proceeding is always recommended. A family law attorney can explain options you didn't know existed and ensure your rights are protected.
It's a common misconception that hiring a divorce attorney will incur higher costs and prolong the process. That is not the case in most situations. An experienced attorney will guide you on the most efficient path possible. For divorce cases involving children or significant financial assets, a divorce settlement may naturally take longer to settle due to its complexity and sensitive nature. Attempting to settle a complex divorce without legal representation is never a good idea.
Call An Experienced Family Law Attorney
At Lecour Family Law, we counsel our clients about complex family law issues and help them consider the best tactics for dispute resolution. When it's impossible to reach a divorce settlement, we have the experience to represent you successfully in court. Regardless of how your divorce case is resolved, we always work to protect your legal interests and guide you through the process with sensitivity and compassion. Call us today at 636-685-0440 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. We pride ourselves on offering family legal services tailored to your specific needs.
Lecour Family Law is located at 1270 Jungermann Road in St. Peters, Missouri. We serve clients throughout St. Charles, O'Fallon, Troy, Warrenton, and St. Louis.