Divorce is not an easy decision for you to make or confront when the choice is not yours. You may feel an extreme range of emotions. Angry at your spouse. Ready for the next stage of your life, but anxious about the uncertainty of the future. Fearful that you won't get to see your children. Embarrassed to tell family and friends. Worried about your finances.
That last concern is a big one. Forbes magazine reported that the average cost of a divorce in the U.S. lands in the range of $15,000 to $30,000. The statistic can be frightening, especially when you know that divorce involves dividing your marital estate between two households.
The statistic is just a couple of numbers. It fails to explain how a divorce becomes expensive and what couples can do to keep the costs at a minimum and even below the average range.
Here are just 5 of the many ways to reduce the cost of your divorce.
- Choose an attorney who focuses on civil resolution. The reality is that much of the expense is due to attorney's fees. Failing to consult an attorney at all is not a good idea. Even if you and your spouse can agree on everything, you could miss important details, make mistakes that could be expensive to fix later or end up with a settlement that does not adequately protect the rights and interests of each spouse. On the other hand, choosing an attorney who advertises that he or she will "take your spouse to the cleaners" can be very expensive and unnecessary. Family court is a court of equity. Attorneys can file as many expensive motions as they want, but the court will still look for the most equitable and fair solution.
- Have emotions not an emotional divorce. Feeling intense emotions is natural and perfectly acceptable. They may be the reason you are filing for divorce, but do not make legal decisions during the divorce based on those emotions entirely. Think about the underlying reasons you may want to fight over a piece of furniture and take a moment to ask yourself if the other party is a good parent to your children even if he or she was not a great spouse to you.
- Rank your priorities and make compromises. Create a list of your goals and rank them. Decide what is most important and what you are willing to concede in part or in whole. You are going to make compromises in any divorce; you can control which ones you make or you can let a judge decide for you. Most people are much more satisfied with the outcome when they give a little instead of having a judge take something away.
- Use alternative dispute resolution or dissolve your marriage. The more decisions you can make outside the courtroom, the fewer court costs and attorney's fees you will have to pay. Dissolution is an alternative to a contested divorce, requiring only one court hearing to finalize the termination of marriage. Alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or collaborative law, can provide structure but allow couples to save money through cooperation.
- Prepare yourself for every meeting. You can reduce billable hours by making your time with your attorney as productive as possible. For example, gather all the financial documentation you can for your first consultation and write down the questions you want answered before any meeting.
Do not let a statistic cause sleepless nights or scare you into staying in an unhappy marriage. Always remember that there are many ways to reduce the cost of a divorce.