One of the first questions people ask divorce attorneys is how much money the divorce process will ultimately cost them. It makes sense to want to know how to budget for legal fees incurred during a divorce, and it’s normal to want to be able to expect a total divorce cost, when all is said and done. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. A high-conflict divorce involving children and special circumstances (such as drug use, mental health issues or domestic violence, to name a few) can be very costly. On the other hand, a simple divorce wherein the parties can communicate well and learn to compromise on the issues will be much less expensive. Every family and every divorce is different. Here are a few tips for keeping your divorce costs down, no matter what your circumstances:
- Talk about things. If you are able to do so, talk to your spouse about what you both envision, as an ideal outcome. If you have children, discuss custody and placement. Discuss who will be making decisions for the children and who will spend time with them when. If you have a house, decide whether one of you will stay living in the house. If no one wants to live there, talk about selling it. The more of these things you can work out between yourselves, the less you have to pay lawyers to negotiate and the more likely you will be to end up with an outcome you both can live with. Even if you don’t entirely see eye to eye on every issue, having those conversations with your spouse will save you money, in that you will both know what the other is looking for, and you will be better able to compromise, where possible. Uncontested divorces are far less expensive than contested divorces, and even narrowing down the contested issues to a few, rather than a dozen, will decrease costs significantly.
- Let go of personal property. Although it can be hard to see when you are in the middle of a divorce, some things really don’t matter, in the long run. Arguments over personal property take time and money, and usually, the item being fought over is not worth very much, objectively speaking. Remember that the value of personal property is based on how much an objective third party would be willing to pay for it. In other words, “garage sale value,” or what you could sell it for on Craigslist. It is much less expensive to buy a new toaster than to pay your lawyer to argue that you should keep the toaster! The only items of personal property that should be contested are those of significant sentimental value or those that would be objectively considered an asset. For every item, do a cost-benefit analysis as to whether it is really “worth it” to argue about it.
- Document everything. One of the unfortunate aspects of the divorce process involves the pervasive necessity to know what has happened and what is currently happening, in every aspect relevant to the divorce. Keeping good, organized records will only help you, in the long run. For example, if you and your spouse agree to meet at a time other than the one specified in your Temporary Order, to exchange the kids, make sure the agreement is in writing. Documenting will lessen the likelihood of conflict, down the road, and avoid a he-said, she-said situation. Keep a calendar that keeps track of placement and exchanges, keep copies of important emails and text messages, and keep a binder containing all documents relevant to your case. The more information you have and the more organized it is, the less you will have to pay an attorney to gather and process that information, if and when it is needed (and the more likely you will be to succeed in litigation, because you will have evidence to back up your claims).
- Educate yourself. The more you learn, the more prepared you will be and the more likely you will be to see the forest for the trees. Learn about how divorce works in Wisconsin so that you understand the process and avoid getting hung up on something that may be incorrect or irrelevant. Many people watch legal dramas on television, and many know someone who was divorced in another state, where the applicable laws may be entirely different. As a result, people come to the divorce process with many preconceived notions of what will happen, many of which are very inaccurate. Learning the law in your jurisdiction will help you to ask the right questions and will prevent you from focusing on details that, in the long run, may not apply to you or to your situation. Educating yourself is also a good way to avoid getting into “trouble” by making a decision that could have negative ramifications for you, down the road. Knowledge is power, and it will also save you money, in the long run.
Should you need legal guidance through a divorce, call us and speak with an experienced divorce attorney, to learn what options may work best for your particular situation. We are mindful of legal fees and always seek to minimize your costs. Navigating the divorce process can be expensive, but we will help you to evaluate your economic circumstances and to choose a path that will most benefit you, your family, and your wallet.