In our Financial Impacts of Divorce Series, we mentioned in our earlier posting the Financial Impacts of a Divorce. The Client is not always in charge of all the factors impacting the cost of a Divorce or Legal Separation. So, another important question for a client to ask is: How Do I Keep My Costs Low?
Top 6 Ways to Keep Divorce Expenses Down
(1) Sign a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. Okay, so it may be a bit late but the best advice is to enter a premarital agreement, called a Pre-Nup or Pre-Nuptial Agreement. It’s never romantic but it’s quite practical and sensible if both parties are up for it. Think of any successful business and odds are the owners, member or operators have a formal operating agreement. A marriage is just as much of a business these days with jointly held assets, investments, debt management, and a partnership working towards common goals. It’s okay to enter into your own operating agreement for your marriage.
(2) Use Mediation and Settlement Conferences Wisely. Most folks think they have to come to a full agreement at mediation or at an early settlement conference. This places far too much pressure on the parties and, quite frankly, sometimes the parties don’t have all the important information to make a decision at mediation. However, the couples who can use mediation and settlement meetings to sort out what is agreed upon and which issues need further resolution end up saving thousands of dollars. Not all issues are connected and if you can resolve some issues early in the process the less money will be spent on fighting about resolved issues.
(3) Know When to Stop Negotiating. This is counter-intuitive because all of us also say you can save money by resolving the disputed issues before a contested hearing or trial. However, most attorneys work on a time and materials basis so you incur fees for each draft and exchange of settlement proposals, demands and responses. If you aren’t picking up ground in your settlement negotiations, then it’s important to realize that you aren’t getting a return on your investment. A skilled attorney will be able to tell you when to pack it in and head to court!
(4) Understand your Financial Situation. We have encountered many $30,000 Millionaires, which is a term given to those hard-working and respected couples living paycheck to paycheck but who fight like they have millions in the bank during the divorce. Divorce is a phase, and it shouldn’t define anyone or leave anyone bankrupt. As it turns out, those who have plenty of money to fight in a divorce proceeding usually don’t; those with significant assets know the real value of money and investments and understand the importance of reducing expenses when splitting households. During the divorce process, it’s important to realize the value in taking a reasonable position when dividing up assets, property and allocating debt. There is absolutely no reason to pay your lawyers more than the value of the assets you are trying to divide.
(5) Don’t Give Up on the Children. The whole divorce and custody process may feel like it’s designed to wear you down and force you to take a settlement offer that leaves you with less time enjoying your kids than you are entitled. Bad parenting plans can be costly and the impact of a bad parenting plan can affect you for many, many years. Custody plans affect the amount of child support paid and received. Depending on your custody agreement or orders, it may be difficult or practically impossible to modify the orders in the future, which translates to even more money spent to correct or modify the defective or ill-conceived parenting plan. Try to find a lawyer who has been through the child custody process in their own life, they will understand the finer details of a parenting plan and will be able to relate to what you are experiencing.
(6) And finally … Hire an Attorney at the Beginning. In an earlier blog article, we relayed an experience of a client waiting to hire his attorney until the discussions between the parties had broken down. While the intent was good (i.e. try to work things out on your own), both parties were operating in a fictitious world and were trying to make important decisions in the absence of critical, case-altering information. Early on, an attorney can navigate the case and steer expectations for the other party. Also, important deadlines exist that, if passed, can jeopardize or foreclose a client’s rights.
Contact a Colorado Springs Divorce Attorney at The Drexler Law Group, LLC for more information and to discuss a strategy for pursuing your divorce, legal separation or child custody matter. We understand the real impact of divorce, legal separation and child custody matters and will work with you to keep legal representation affordable without sacrificing your important rights. Call us at (719) 471-8000 or at our after-hours line (719) 399-0400 or contact us by using our online contact form.
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