Divorce can be costly. The bulk of expenses are for professional fees like lawyers, accountants and psychologists. The New York Times recently reported on different ways to keep divorce costs down, and maybe minimize your heartache, too. Here are some of those tips, free of charge.
Learn the Alternatives to Court
Opting for arbitration, collaboration or mediation may help you avoid the costs of a lengthy court battle, but each of these paths has its pros and cons. A lawyer can point you in the right direction but be sure you agree on the path.
In a collaborative divorce, both parties commit to creating a shared agreement. They may share a financial expert (called a financial neutral) or a divorce coach in the collaborative process.
This approach comes with an effective incentive, but also a harsh penalty for failure. If you get stuck, the case restarts but with new representation and it can be a costly do-over.
Talk for free . . . to others
I’ve written about divorce tips and advice before. Speaking to a divorce lawyer is a good use of your time, but speaking to them about non-legal matters is not. Lawyers are not therapists and way more expensive.
A therapist’s hourly fee typically is between $120 and $250, yet many people use their lawyer, who may charge twice that amount, to complain and lay blame.
Therapy can help the legal process run more smoothly. But often the conflicts in divorce proceedings — money, children — are not the real issues. Anger, resentment, or even fantasies of revenge, often come into play.
As the New York Times article reports:
If there’s even a tiny question of whether you will ‘get away’ with hiding something, think again. There are very high penalties for hiding assets, and if you don’t disclose up front, you’re buying problems down the road.
The law is the law, and it’s not always fair. If you want to complain about spousal support or child support guidelines, take it up with the legislature.
In cases where there have been cheating or deceit and emotions are high, find a way to slow the process.
By slowing the process and letting time do its job of healing the wounds by, for example, pacing discovery or using the court’s calendar wisely. Resolving smaller issues as they arise can also help.
Personal property can be a money drain. Hold your power for the valuable and irreplaceable. Judges hate personal property issues and will likely assign most low-monetary value items randomly if there is disagreement.
Assemble a Team
Life after divorce is going to be different and knowing what that looks like often requires additional people and resources. Financial planners, divorce coaches and other professionals can help fill out your team of professionals.
To avoid costly subpoenas and depositions, clients should provide complete records of all financial dealings, including tax returns, real estate documents and even handshake deals like consulting gigs.
Since you never know what is going to happen and no one is completely satisfied with the results that come down in a courtroom it can be crazy to put your life in the hands of someone who only has a snapshot of your story.
Get a Prenuptial Agreement
Another helpful tip is the use of prenuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements.
A sound prenuptial agreement may be the best cost-saving measure in divorcing, said Barry Wayne, a partner in Bluestein and Wayne of Coral Gables, Fla. Often a prenuptial is prepared as the wedding planning is ongoing, and many times at the behest of wealthy relatives.
Consulting with an estate planning lawyer can help draft a prenuptial and also work to protect and assure assets for surviving spouses in the event of death.
The New York Times article on how to keep divorce costs down is here.