These days, a traditional divorce for a couple over 45 with substantial assets can cost up to $100,000, or even more. However, there are ways to keep your divorce fees far lower than triple figures. The top five:
- Choose a firm that utilizes a “team” approach.
If you ask the partner to do everything on your case, your expenses will start to skyrocket. Choose a firm that has a good mix of partners and associates. Many associates are perfectly capable of handling most tasks on their own, like going to court and getting a future date. Don't make the partner charge you his or her rate, when an associate could easily handle the task.
Along the same lines, paralegals can do some of the necessary legal work. Why would you want an attorney to bill you their rate for putting something in an envelope, or email you something? Paralegals fill that crucial administrative void and provide a welcome break from attorney-level fees.
- Put your financial records together.
A large part of the divorce will be the financial side, so the more you can do to keep your attorneys from spending time gathering and organizing your financial records, the more money you'll save. Doing the work of organizing your financial records and making copies will save you quite a bit of attorney's fees in the long run.
Try to gather three years of tax returns, bank statements and credit card statements; the most recent statements for any mortgage or car loans; current investment and retirement account statements and copies of titles and deeds. And don't forget your paystubs and W2s! Better yet, get these documents electronically, and simply email them to your lawyer. They will thank you for it.
- Be judicious with your emails and phone calls.
Your attorney's time is money, so be careful how you use it. If you're clear and concise, email may be the right choice for you. Be mindful about what you choose to email. You may want to fire off an angry email to your spouse but copying your lawyer to read that email may not be the best use of your finances.”
If you're more of a talker, and need to process things, make sure you schedule a call a day or so in advance, so that you're prepared and focused on what has to be discussed. Making a list of questions is a good idea; so is taking notes during the call so you go back to them if needed.
- Keep personal property PERSONAL.
I'm sure you have a TON of household stuff to split. Please try and figure out who is going to get what on your own. Don't pay your attorney (at $400 an hour) to fight over a $100 end table from Target. Don't be that person who runs around looking for the blue ribbon that says “I got 1st place in my divorce.” Sometimes porcelain china is just a dinner plate, nothing more.
- Remember what your divorce lawyer is for
Your divorce attorney is there to fight for your rights in the divorce, and to see that your best interests are protected. They aren't there to here about how your mom never loved you, or how you were always picked last in dodgeball. There are other professionals for that, and they're called therapists.
Due to the inherently emotional nature of divorce, sometimes it's easy for the lines to get blurred, and you will feel compelled to reach out to someone that's already on “your side.” But your lawyer is almost certainly 2 to 3 times more expensive than any therapist you could find. Don't let your wallet be walloped by wishing and wanting to be heard. Get a referral and call a therapist.