How to Cut Down on Divorce Costs
Ways to Make Divorce Cheaper
From the emotional to the financial costs, getting a divorce is hardly ever a cheap process. Whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a Lawyer to represent you, there are fees and costs you’ll be required to incur and depending on the circumstances and length of negotiations, these associated costs have a way of blowing out of proportion and taking a toll on your pockets.
If you’re interested in receiving very valuable tips on how to slash your divorce costs down, you’ve come to the right place. The following aims to provide actionable advice and recommendations on how to get a divorce without breaking the bank. You should also expect to see some suggestions of certain actions to avoid in order to prevent overspending.
Have a clear picture of your desired outcome
One of the main reasons why divorce processes take so long is disagreements over key issues and demands. A divorce can essentially be achieved via;
- Litigation with attorneys
- Pro Se Litigation (Do it yourself), and;
The most expensive of these options is Litigation which involves having to rely on the court for a decision on issues like alimony and custodial arrangements. Spouses should ideally have an idea of their preferred outcome of the divorce. You should also be realistic about your preferred outcome. If your spouse only makes $30,000 a year you shouldn’t expect to receive $2,000 a month in alimony, as this is not financially realistic. You should be informed about the various potential outcomes and be realistic about what could potentially happen in and out of court. Resolution may then be sought via mediation or other means before considering litigation.
Research and Learn
In your journey towards getting a divorce, one of your first actions should be to arm yourself with the right information. You’ll need to learn all you can about divorce and related issues to ensure that once you eventually hire a Lawyer, you’re mentally on the same page. Getting up to speed with the laws related to divorce in your state should ideally help you save valuable time once you start discussions with your Lawyer.
Apply for a Fee Waiver
Some states have processes in place for waiving filing fees for spouses who do not earn sufficient income. This is usually in place to ensure that people do not remain in unhealthy marriages because of unavailability of finances. The process essentially involves the court waiving all the court fees associated with the divorce. In order to get this done, you’ll need to prove to the court that you have limited finances by providing documentation of all your income including any form of social security support you currently receive.
Once your application for a fee waiver is accessed, the court may decide to either approve or defer it for you to pay later. Note that if your spouse contests the divorce, you’re still likely to incur other expenses from hiring a lawyer, whose fees cannot be waived.
The importance of being organized cannot be overemphasized in terms of helping you keep costs down. Before and after starting the divorce process, you should ideally compile all relevant documents and details regarding your marriage and keep them in order before hiring a lawyer. This would help you save time and resources when you eventually start working with a divorce lawyer.
Furthermore, you should quickly provide all documents and information requested by your Lawyer or the Court to ensure the process flows smoothly and avoid any delays. Note that if you hire a Lawyer that bills by the hour, delays could be very costly. In addition, make additional copies of documents to reduce the costs incurred by a law firm in carrying out these tasks.
Use your lawyer wisely
In order to minimize costs, you’ll need to ensure you engage with your Lawyer the right way. For instance, picking up the phone every minute to call a Lawyer who charges a variable or hourly fee will most likely be detrimental to your finances and push the divorce costs to the top. The following are some of the key ways you can use your lawyer wisely.
Understand whether the Law firm charges Fixed vs Variable Fees
Fixed fees (also known as “flat” fees) are typically flat rates offered by law firms for the entire service. If you’re working on a budget or limited finances then this is for you. Flat rates are ideal for situations where there is need for predictability as the fee remains the same regardless of how long the case lasts. The only downside to this is that some lawyers may grow frustrated after long periods of working on the same case with no increased earnings. To avoid this, make sure the firm is reputable and well recommended before hiring them.
Variable fees (also known as “billable” fees) on the other hand are usually billed hourly or as fixed fees charged in tiers. If your lawyer charges variable fees, they’re likely to bill you at an hourly rate whenever tangible contact or inquiry is made. This kind of billing can be very unpredictable and could turn out unfavorable to any spouse with limited funding. The main benefit to this style of billing is that lawyers who charge variable fees have more incentive to do more work for you, as they earn for every unit of time they work. If you do not mind paying significantly more, this may be the option for you.
Both pricing structures are common pricing models used in family law, and you will find reputable lawyers using either. Do not assume one firm is better than another because of their pricing model.
Request regular billing updates
Once you start working with a lawyer, you should regularly request for itemized billing updates to improve your understanding on how and what you’re being charged for. This understanding should ideally help you make adjustments to further reduce the cost of getting your divorce.
Avoid personal calls
This is absolutely important if you’re going to bring the costs of your divorce down. If you’re dealing with a law firm that charges by the hour, you should aim to avoid making too many calls to your lawyer as they may charge you for this. The easiest way around this would be to make a list of questions to ask during your next meeting rather than putting a call through whenever you think of something new. In addition, calling your lawyer regularly just to vent your frustrations may be a costly exercise too. This is not an issue with fixed fee firms or ones that explicitly state that they don’t charge for phone calls.
Consider Legal Aid Help
Although it’s very possible to have your divorce fees waived by the court, attorneys’ fees cannot be waived. In other states, Legal Aid is available to those who do not have enough income to support hiring an attorney. In the state of North Carolina however, Legal Aid in regards to family law is limited to domestic violence and sexual assault cases, as well as child custody when a child is in the custody of an abusive parent. The Legal Aid program gives victims access to volunteer lawyers. Legal Aid organizations typically offer both low cost and free legal services.
If you’re indigent, these Legal Aid lawyers may represent you for free and even file for fee waivers on your behalf. If you’re unsure how to get Legal Aid assistance, you’ll need to contact the bar association in your state to point you in the right direction. North Carolina residents can also visit Legal Aid of North Carolina’s website.
While the above steps are aimed at helping you make efforts to reduce the cost of getting a divorce, there’s more to this. The overall cost of your divorce will ultimately boil down to whether there are issues that need to be resolved and how complex these issues are. In the absence of issues to be resolved, the cost of getting a divorce may be limited strictly to court fees. Whatever the case, following these tips will help you start slashing down your divorce costs.