Divorce isn't something most couples like to talk about, but it's important to be objective about it. If you and your spouse have tried everything, but just can't seem to make your marriage work, going your separate ways may be the best route for both of you. Eventually, you're both going to be happier, and although the effects on any children you may have are likely to be significant, they're ultimately going to be better off as well. Apart from the emotional and familial strain of a divorce, though, comes the financial cost. If you sense marital discord in your relationship, or if a divorce is on the horizon, read on to learn how to lessen the overall expenses of the process.
1. Choose Your Lawyer Prudently
While your first inclination may be to go out and get yourself a top-quality lawyer to get every penny you can from your spouse, that's probably not the best way to go. The priciest lawyers can cost as much as $400 per billable hour. Instead, let your emotions cool off a bit and go with affordable counsel. Just be sure to do your research on whomever you hire. Use family members and friends for referrals or check out the website Attorneys.com to find a representative who's right for you.
2. Keep Negotiations Amicable
If your divorce is uncontested, billable hours are going to be greatly reduced, saving you substantial money on attorney's fees. Schedule some sit-down time with your spouse when the two of you can knock out the nuts and bolts of an agreement without the need for lawyers. Update your attorneys on the results of those conversations so they can provide more direction. This way you can keep costs to a minimum.
3. Report All Income Accurately
This may not save you money initially, but can help you stay out of the judge's way, who can impose serious fines and penalties if you try to hide income or assets. No reputable lawyer is ever going to suggest that you conceal information, and it's simply not a good strategy to undertake. By being honest in your financial reporting to the court, you're going to be much better off in the end.
4. Keep Communication to a Minimum
Once you retain counsel, ask for a complete list of all documents and any other information you're going to need for your initial sit down. Get the majority of things discussed then, especially if the first consultation is free. Keep your lawyer in the loop and always ask pertinent questions, but do try to keep communication to a minimum. Lawyers are not there for moral support. They can give it to you, yes, but at a pretty penny. I was shocked when I got the first few invoices from my divorce attorney, in which every phone conversation was billed to me down to 15-minute time frames.
5. Close All Joint Credit Card Accounts
The minute you think a divorce is imminent, close all joint credit card accounts. You can in fact be on the hook for credit card spending even after your divorce is final, regardless of the language of the agreement. Close these accounts, and if you have any with current balances, transfer them to new credit cards in either spouse's name based upon who spent what. Those debts can haunt you long after your divorce if you're not careful.
Once the agreement is signed and in place, make sure you live up to it. I know of a few divorced dads who play games when it comes to child support and alimony payments, which just isn't right. If you agree to make payments on the 1st and 15th of every month, then do it -- and always pay the agreed-upon amount. The sooner you and your ex can create an enduring, amicable post-marriage relationship, the better off both of you, and your kids, are going to be.
Do you know of any other ways to save money during a divorce?