40 tips to Keep Your Costs Down during a Divorce
“Marriage is grand. Divorce is 10 grand.”
No one wants to spend more money than they have to during a divorce.
Even though ending a relationship is an emotional time, many of the actions to be taken and decisions to be made are financial in nature, and will require clear-minded consideration.
You probably haven’t made a budget for divorce. Yet, you are making financial decisions that may affect you for decades to come.
You are on the verge of splitting your net worth with your soon-to-be ex. The thought of spending money to divide your assets isn’t very appealing. It is understood, however, as necessary in order to limit the long-term personal and financial damage that divorce can carry with it.
So how do you minimize the cost of your divorce?
After more than 35 years of helping men through divorce and family law matters, we understand the processes (and expenses) as well as anyone. That is why we have created this all-inclusive guide of the top 40 ways to help you control the cost of your divorce.
Important: Since every family law case is so unique, the first thing you should do, once a divorce becomes likely, is sit down with a divorce attorney for an initial consultation. They will be able to listen to the facts of your case and tell you what your options are. Most reputable family law firms provide a free initial case evaluation for qualified individuals.
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This is an all-inclusive guide on saving money during a divorce. As such, it’s lengthy and there is a lot to consider. That’s why we have made it easy for you to navigate the Guide using the links below. We have broken the tips down into 4 categories (and 1 bonus tip!) that correspond to different timelines in the divorce process. If you want to take a short-cut, just select the section that you are most interested in and go!
Our Easy In-Guide Navigation:
- 12 Ways to Save Money Before You Hire a Divorce Lawyer
- 6 Ways to Save Money When Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
- 11 Ways to Save Money After You Hire a Divorce Lawyer
- 6 Ways to Save Money Before Your Divorce is Final
- Bonus Tip for Saving Money in Divorce
Save Money Before Hiring a Divorce Attorney
1) Establish Your Goals and Priorities
Sit down and take an honest look at your goals and priorities in regards to the division of your assets, division of your liabilities, and the custody/visitation of your children. Make a list. Then have a tough discussion with yourself about your long-term and short-term goals. This will help you be better directed in your conversations with your attorney. Be sure that you are making business-like decisions that you base on a true evaluation of your emotions and capabilities.
2) Understand the Factors in Play
Your emotional pain has no correlation to what you will receive during your divorce. Unlike a personal injury claim, where you are compensated for pain and suffering, United States domestic laws are no longer structured to compensate you for pain or hurt. The courts do not financially punish the person who behaved badly. Nor do they financially reward the person who was done wrong. Understanding that the variables involved in dividing your assets are based on economic factors, rather than emotional factors, may help you set realistic expectations and reduce the number of tasks you set for your divorce lawyer.
3) Choose the Route that’s Right for You
If you and your spouse have no conflicts, and no assets or liabilities to divide, then you may be able to divorce without the services of a divorce attorney. Most states have do-it-yourself divorce forms with instructions that you can find online.
If your divorce is uncontested, and you are able to agree on all the terms of the divorce, you may be able to finalize the paperwork with only one of you being represented by an attorney. But, BEWARE, pursue this approach at your own peril. It could come back to bite you later if things fall apart. You may find yourself having to split the cost of the original, neutral attorney, in addition to the cost of any new individual representation that you require moving forward.
In situations where you and your spouse cannot agree on reasonable terms, more complex litigation will be required in order to get what you deserve.
4) Get Smart – Learn Everything You Can
The more you know, the less you’ll have to pay a lawyer to educate you, and the less time you’ll have to spend in court. Most courts have websites which have “self-service” sections designed to educate the public about family law and divorce. Many also have “advocates” or “facilitators” to assist people who do not have an attorney. Read, research, and learn everything you can about the divorce process.
5) Make a List of Everything You Agree on
By getting the issues that you and your spouse agree on out of the way, you may be able to save money by only working with a paid professional to resolve the areas of disagreement. Plus, maybe you’ll realize that you agree on all the major issues and the others aren’t worth fighting over.
6) Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand
Nobody plans or hopes for divorce. And nobody saves money to end their marriage. You need to expect lifestyle changes to happen when you get divorced. It’s important to be prepared for any scenario. In other words, you can’t make plans to move forward with the assumption that you will receive alimony, or that you won’t have to pay some kind of support. You need to budget accordingly, because supporting two households is more expensive than one and you may have legal fees to pay on top of that.
7) Know Exactly What You are Negotiating Over
In a divorce, there are usually 2 main things that are disputed: Children and property. One way to keep costs down is to have a good inventory and handle on your property. Know what you have on the table so that your attorney can save some time figuring out how to divide it. Remember, time is money!
Make a list of assets and debts and bring that list with you when you meet with your attorney.
8) Don’t Spend Dollars to Make Dimes
Weigh the cost of what you hope to gain against what you will have to spend to get it. Consider that, in support and asset division matters, it may not make sense to have your divorce lawyer fight over small differences between what you hope to get and what your spouse would agree to. You need to balance the cost of legal fees against what you hope to gain and make an educated decision.
9) Don’t Pinch Pennies to then Lose Dollars
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get divorced cheaply. It is even more difficult to get a good, fair settlement without the help of a skilled divorce attorney.
Don’t let saving money be your only focus. Doing things yourself, or using a sub-par lawyer, will only cost you money in the long run.
10) Select Your Divorce Lawyer Prudently
While your first inclination may be to go out and get yourself a high-priced lawyer in an attempt to take your soon-to-be ex to the cleaner’s, that’s probably not the best way to go.
The priciest attorneys can cost as much as $500 per billable hour. Instead, let your emotions cool off a bit and make a clear-minded decision. Go with a skilled, experienced, but affordable divorce attorney. Just be sure to do your research on whomever you are considering retaining.
Save Money When Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
11) Interview Attorneys who offer Free Initial Consultations
Most reputable family law firms will offer a free initial consultation so that you can be introduced to your perspective representative. This meeting will involve the divorce lawyer listening to your situation and letting you know your best options moving forward. This is an excellent chance for you to decide if this is the right attorney for you.
It will also give you some insight on what you can expect regarding the process of your divorce.
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12) Kick the Tires a Bit
Do your research and interview your prospective divorce attorney. Who you choose to work with is very important..
Be upfront and ask them how you can keep costs down. Often times you will find a family attorney that offers Military discounts or reduced costs for seniors. Ask them their philosophy on handling divorce cases. If you meet with a divorce lawyer and don’t feel like they are a good fit for you, try another.
13) A Cheap Attorney is not Always a Good Attorney
It’s good to be frugal when choosing professional services. However, it’s a mistake to think you are going to save money by hiring an attorney who only charges a small fee or a flat fee.
Even worse is hiring an attorney with no experience in family law cases who will work for less. A poorly skilled lawyer will cost you more in the long run. Your objective should be to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement with your spouse. To accomplish this, you need an experienced family law attorney who might cost a bit more but will end up saving you money when all is said and done.
14) Consider using Unbundled Legal Services
In many states, to save money during divorce, you can hire a lawyer who will handle part, but not all, of your case. For example, you can hire a family lawyer to write a memorandum of law for you or to draft a settlement agreement.
While the price per hour may be the same, the amount of hours it will take to complete just one or two designated tasks will be less than the entire divorce.
15) Don’t Pay Full Price for Simple Tasks
Retain a family law firm that makes good use of junior lawyers and paralegals, who bill at lower rates, but are capable of doing routine tasks.
16) Get it in Writing – and then Read it
Most divorce lawyers charge by the hour and require an advanced fee deposit at the beginning of their service. Fees are then charged against the deposit until it is depleted. When this happens the client is responsible for all extra charges incurred.
It is imperative that you obtain a written fee agreement that outlines the exact financial terms of the representation. Then READ IT!
If you have any questions about the contract, have the attorney thoroughly explain so that you clearly understand how you would be charged. Compare and contrast fee structures when deciding which family law firm to work with.
17) Assemble Your Divorce Dream-Team
If you have no child custody issues and no assets then legal expenses will be minimal. If you have complex affairs, it is advised that you consult supplemental professionals in addition to your divorce lawyer. A CPA, financial adviser, business valuator, and, possibly, a therapist to help you talk through the process.
If you do not already have people that you are working with, your divorce attorney will be able to help you put together a team of skilled professionals.
Save Money After You Hire a Divorce Lawyer
18) Do What You Can before You ask for Help
Be smart about how you use your lawyer. If you can complete a simple task, or if you can find the answer to a question by looking at an official source, do it yourself.
If you ask your attorney to do this work for you, every phone call and email is going to come at a price.
19) Nickel, Nickel. Dime, Dime. Know What is Considered Billable Time.
Time is a valuable commodity. If you are at all unclear, don’t be afraid to ask your divorce lawyer what they do, and what they do not, charge for.
People don’t always know that time on the telephone will be charged, as are email exchanges. Lawyers charge for any time spent dealing with the case. Get clarification so that you don’t unknowingly request services that you will be unexpectedly billed for later.
20) Use Incremental Billing as Effectively as You Can
Most divorce attorneys bill in incremental time. The concept is not unique. Most service professionals (doctors, dentists, accountants) base their efforts, and prices, on measured units of time. In the case of divorce lawyers, those units are typically blocks of minutes. Many family law firms bill in six minute increments. As soon as the work starts, you are charged every six minutes.
For example, at $300 per hour, one six minute increment has a value/cost to you of $30. If you have a two minute conversation with your lawyer, that is one six minute increment, or $30 in fees. If you have a seven minute conversation, that is two six minute increments, or $60 in fees.
To realize maximum efficiency under this system, plan ahead before meeting with or talking to your lawyer. Save your questions for one conversation, rather than calling your lawyer every time you have something on your mind. Four two minute conversations equals $120 in legal fees. One eight minute conversation equals $60 in legal fees.
21) Make Your Own Photocopies
Simple enough, right? Why pay someone to do something you can do yourself for free?
Neither your divorce lawyer, nor his staff, will mind. They’d rather focus on other aspects of your case.
22) Keep ‘em Honest
Make sure your attorney sends you a monthly, itemized accounting of everything you are billed for. Then review your statements and copies of documents sent to you.
You want dates, names of phone calls, and written correspondence. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to question it.
23) Maintain Really, Really, Really Good Records
It’s a fact of life that documents are often misplaced or flat-out lost forever. Keep files or binders that contain all official correspondence, court orders, research, and your personal notes. Make sure you don’t omit anything. This way you won’t have to pay for duplicates and you may avoid potential problems down the road.
24) Turn your Homework in On-Time
Do the work in-between the meetings and come prepared. Some meetings focus exclusively on documents that must be compiled beforehand. For example, if a meeting is scheduled to quantify your prospective living expenses, it is critical that you have completed your homework for the meeting and bring it all with you.
Your divorce attorney won’t be able to do the necessary work if you arrive with only partial data, and the meeting will likely be less effective and possibly another will have to be scheduled to finish the project.
That introduces the challenges of coordinating schedules, holding up the progress for any financial components that are dependent on having the expenses sorted out, and dragging out the divorce process.
25) Tried Discussing a Settlement, Lately?
If you and your spouse are able to communicate, it is in your best interest to negotiate the terms of an agreement and come to terms on the division of any marital property.
This will not only help keep down the expense of using an attorney, but also the expense of court ordered mediation and expert witnesses.
26) Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot
Stalling tactics, like not turning over documents requested by your attorney, will only end up costing you more money.
There will need to be more communication between you and your attorney, and between your attorney and your spouse’s attorney. Talk about attorney expenses adding up! During the discovery phase, turn over all documents requested as quickly as possible to save yourself time and money.
27) Honesty is the Best Policy
Be honest and forthright with your attorney. If you lie, or deceive, it will probably come to light eventually.
At that point, you will have lost the trust of your lawyer plus you will have to pay additional fees to make corrections. There is the chance that you will face court sanctions (fines), as well.
28) Be Compliant
If your divorce lawyer asks you to do something, such as provide a declaration, contact information for witnesses, or financial documentation, do it!
Your attorney is not your mother. Don’t put them in the position of having to bill you for repeated requests or nagging. Unnecessary delays can also cost you an advantage in your case.
29) Follow Court Orders
You need to be compliant with court orders, even if you don’t like them or think they are fair.
If you disagree with a court order, it is better to pay the attorney fees to try to change the order than to pay the cost of an attorney to defend you against criminal charges.
30) Your Divorce Lawyer is More Expensive than a Therapist
Your divorce lawyer is your legal representative, not your emotional sounding board.
If you are calling your attorney every time you feel down, or every time your soon-to-be ex does something to make you mad, you are incurring attorney fees. Get a good therapist, let your healthcare insurance pay for 80% of visits, and leave the emotional stuff out of the legal process.
31) Listen to Good Advice
You are paying a lot to be represented by a skilled professional. Pay attention. Listen to the advice that your divorce lawyer is giving you and try not to have unrealistic expectations.
Often times, costs get out of control because a client wants to press on with actions that go against the legal advice that is being given.
32) The Separation is in the Preparation
Make lists of questions and concerns prior to your meetings or calls with your divorce attorney and/or their staff.
Be prepared in order to keep appointments brief and on-point. Use to-do lists to keep yourself organized and on schedule. Time is money and preparation saves time.
33) Go Above & Beyond for Your Divorce Team
Information is a recurring theme in divorce. As we have explained, your lawyer requires information to adequately represent you and you need to be informed. Another frequent component of divorce is the sharing of that information with the other side. Copies of bank statements, vehicle title certificates, investment account statements, loan documents, credit card statements, pay stubs, and tax returns all have to be delivered to the adverse party.
If you can provide all of these records to your attorney, they will not have to take the time, or got to the expense, to get them for you.
Save Money While Getting Your Divorce Done
34) Be Nice to Lower the Price
It sounds like common sense, and it is. Most family 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 jump off in a case and the costs will begin to mount. To avoid these costs, try to see what, if anything, you and your spouse agree upon and try not to intentionally agitate any issues that you know are sensitive.
Do not take action that undermines your divorce attorney.
35) Be Willing to Negotiate
Sometimes when spouses are overly-emotional about their divorce, they become contentious and may even refuse to negotiate or insist on litigating issues. This has the effect of causing the divorce to drag on and cost everyone unnecessary time and money. Be open to negotiating with your spouse and your spouse’s attorney.
No one wins 100% of a divorce case: There has to be give-and-take between spouses. Keep an open mind and be willing to surrender on some issues in order to get other, more important things back.
36) 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 attorneys), and a neutral person, a mediator, tries to help the parties come to an agreement. It is usually a 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.
The court often requires this effort to reach an amicable resolution before trial. Mediation has a good rate of success. Give it a fair try.
37) Then, Consider Arbitration
Another option is arbitration. It’s useful when most issues have been decided but spouses are still hung up on a few critical points, such as spousal support or the value of a business.
Both spouses go before an arbitrator (often a retired judge) and present their case. The arbitrator’s decision is just as valid as if a judge had made it. Compared to a court battle, there is money to be saved in most cases.
38) Finally, Know When to Walk Away
It’s easy to lose sight of what is important when you are negotiating a divorce settlement.
Remember; the longer the negotiations drag on, the longer and harder it will be for you and your spouse to move on with your new lives.
Delays are a sure-fire way to increase your legal costs, so know when to put a stop to the negotiations and agree on a settlement. Your divorce lawyer can advise you about this.
39) Don’t Move in with Someone New until Your Divorce is Final!
Wait until your divorce is finalized before moving in with your new partner.
Failure to do this can complicate matters and impact your divorce settlement both financially and with child custody and visitation.
Bonus Tip: Saving Money After Divorce
40) Think (Really, Really Hard) Before Getting Married Again
Most family law firms wouldn’t want us to tell you this, but it needs to be said. Divorce is expensive. Weddings are expensive. Be very sure that you are making the right move for your future before you bring the legal system back into your personal relationships.
Your bank account may thank you for it.
Take Control of Your Legal Costs Before, During, and After Divorce
If You Follow these 40 Simple Tips, You will Save Money During Divorce
If you are a man who is going through a Family Law issue, and you would like to work with an experienced local law firm that puts your needs first, call Divorce Lawyers for Men at 1 (877) 866-7393 and schedule a Free 30-minute Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer Near You!
Keep in mind that spending money to have an experienced and skilled divorce attorney will, in fact, save you money over the long term.
Example: If you negotiate a settlement by yourself in which you are paying an additional (more than the court would require) $100 per month in child support, that amounts to $18,000 over 15 years. It would be better for you to spend the extra money up-front to hire a quality divorce attorney that can get you the fair and reasonable child support order that you deserve.
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