No matter how you look at it, divorce is an expensive undertaking. Some attorneys estimate that the average divorce can cost upwards of $15,000. Ironically, court feeds and filings only cost a few hundred dollars.
So why does divorce cost so much? Believe it or not, emotions are the driving force behind the rising cost of divorce. As hard as it may be, divorce can be much more affordable when you remove emotions and see the process as one long business transaction.
Below are some tips for keeping your divorce affordable.
1. Do It Yourself
When my close friend’s wife chose to leave him, he was ready to hire the big guns. After taking a closer look at his finances, potential alimony, child support payments, and his own retirement savings, he changed his mind and decided to do it himself.
“My ex and I had a vested interest in keeping as much for ourselves as possible, so we both learned about the law and consulted an attorney for 2 hours after we hammered out the settlement. It took a long time and a lot of patience, but it made us each several thousand dollars wealthier.”
2. Work with a mediator
Some divorces are pretty contentious, and the constant back-and-forth between parties can be too much for some ex-couples. Another approach is to hire a private mediator; generally, their hourly rate is about one half that of attorneys. A mediator can be very helpful at guiding both parties through the most contentious divorce issues, which usually involve child custody, the splitting up assets, and spousal support.
Mediators are trained at conflict resolution, and attorneys frequently are as well. However, mediators may not provide legal advice to either party. Once your settlement agreement has a final draft, you will want to consult with an attorney (for one or two billable hours) to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of your settlement’s legal interpretation. But remember, once you sign it, you are legally bound to it.
3. When all else fails, retain an experienced divorce attorney.
There are many crooked divorce attorneys out there, so be sure to find an attorney with a reputation for high ethics and integrity. An ethical divorce lawyer will keep your financial interests at heart, which may mean drawing from their previous courtroom experience and advising you to concede an issue, which ultimately will not be financially beneficial for you.
4. Take Charge of Your Finances.
After separating, you may want to go on a shopping spree, or buy those new golf clubs you have had your eyes on. Take the time to create a budget that allows you some freedom to move on, without racking up debilitating debt (especially if your income has dropped). It is true that spending money on oneself can feel good on a bad day. But remember, feelings are temporary, but debt is not.
Maxing out your credit card for nonessentials will hurt you more than help you. These are all very real expenses that you should include in your monthly budget: health insurance premiums, emergency repairs to your car and house, doctor’s visits, and saving for retirement.
5. Talk to a Therapist.
One of the worst mistakes people make during divorce is using their attorney as their therapist. An attorneys’ hourly rate is approximately 5x what a therapist charges. A therapist can guide you through the grieving process and teach you coping skills to get through the tough moments.
While you should certainly surround yourself with supportive family and friends, do not make any of them your therapist. Divorce is a charged affair, wherein loyalties sometimes blur. Talking to a third party about your ex and your children, will be far more beneficial than dragging friends and family into situations where they may feel confused about choosing a side.
To keep your divorce affordable, try to stay on the objective side of things. If you can, move beyond assigning fault and blame. Instead, accept that your divorce is part of a greater plan. Therefore, if you follow the tips in this article, you will surely lower your expenses, which will get you one step closer to a positive outcome.