A divorce is usually painful and expensive. While there are some costs that will have to be paid, below are some tips that I have collected over the years to help clients keep costs down in a case:
1. Do not be Afraid to Ask or a Litigation Budget Keeping costs down for my clients is key. Lawyers are notorious for not wanting to be held to a flat price for divorce. But do not be afraid to ask for an estimate and a litigation budget. Most lawyers will offer a consultation where the review the facts of a case and the process. Make sure you ask the attorney for a budget at the first meeting.
2. Cut Back on the Fighting It sounds like common sense, and it is. Lawyers do not give flat rates for divorce work because it is hard to say how much time a case will take. The more people fight, the more time a case requires and the more legal fees you pay. Divorce is emotional. When those emotions run high, the phone calls to the lawyers start. The "paper war" can begin in a case, and the costs mount. To avoid these costs, try to see what, if anything, you and your spouse agree upon.
3. Give Mediation a Chance Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution procedure. It usually lasts 1/2 day, or even a full day, depending on the issues in a case. Mediation is the time where both sides are present (with lawyers), and a neutral person, a mediator, tries to help the parties come to an agreement. In some counties, free mediation services are offered. However, it is usually relatively low cost to pay for a mediator rather than spend thousands of dollars on a trial. Also, a private mediator can be an advantage since they are usually more willing to get aggressive with a spouse (or their lawyer) who is being unreasonable.
4. Organize Your Finances In a divorce, there are usually 2 main issues: Children and property. One way to keep costs down is to have a good inventory and handle on your property. Know what you have so that your attorney can save some time figuring out how to divide it. Remember, time is money! The more time you save your lawyer, the more money you will save.