5 money-saving tactics during a divorce
Children, property, and conflict make a divorce more complicated and expensive than it needs to be. Disagreements play a significant role in adding to the final budget when finalizing the dissolution of marriage. Even in a marriage with no children or assets, if a couple is conflict-prone, anything can become a matter of dispute due to emotional turmoil of hurt, loss, and anger.
If spouses agree not to contest the terms of their divorce, the process can be relatively cheap, even if child custody and property division must be decided during divorce proceedings.
When couples hire divorce attorneys to handle their contested divorce cases, legal fees add up quickly. Each issue (property division, spousal support, child support, child custody, and visiting schedule) increases the number of hours the attorney spends on the case and thus the overall cost. Add to it depositions, court hearings, back and forth messaging, motions, etc., and the average cost of divorce that goes to trial can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars.
However, as long as divorcing spouses can sort out their differences without the need for a court trial, it is possible to save lots of money by having an uncontested divorce. In addition to common sensibility, there are obvious ways to prevent your bank accounts from depleting. Here are five simple proven money-saving tactics.
Tip #1. Familiarize yourself with the divorce process
When it comes to saving money, knowing the steps in the divorce process and family law in your state will help you determine the best options tailored to your situation, resources, and legal requirements. First, find out if you qualify to file for divorce in another state or county. Another location may offer a shorter waiting period or more favorable distribution of assets. Second, understanding the process will allow you to do something yourself instead of paying someone else. For example, compare certified mail fees and private process server fees when considering how to serve your spouse. Also, find out your rights beforehand. Check out the court website in your county to determine if your family household is eligible to have divorce filing fees waived. Some low-income families can even have their cases reviewed pro bono in legal clinics.
Tip #2. Get a clear picture of your finances
While gathering documentation to complete and file the divorce paperwork, sort out your financial records. Prepare statements from all your accounts – any checking and saving accounts you share with your spouse, income tax returns (past three years), and retirement and insurance accounts. Make a list of assets and debts accumulated during your marriage.
Your financial standing may change after your divorce. Not just because the two-income household will split into two independent entities, but also because taxes are different for married couples and single individuals. When contemplating how to split the marital property, factor in the IRS and their taxing methods.
If you feel too overwhelmed with the financial information, consult a financial planner. They will give you an idea of how stable your financial standing is and how you can solve your current financial issues.
Also, find out if you are eligible for some financial support once you become a single parent. Social services, local churches, the Single Parents Food Bank, and other social organizations may have some practical resources to support single parents.
Tip #3. Discuss it with your spouse
Your soon-to-be-ex-spouse remains a decisive factor in how much the divorce will cost each of you. That is why it is always better to cooperate over important matters. It doesn’t mean you can afford to be a pushover and agree to unfavorable conditions for the sake of saving a few hundred bucks.
If you are the petitioner and your spouse agrees to all the terms, so long as you do all the legwork and filing, you have free rein and can opt for the most inexpensive options available on the divorce services market. Some spouses agree to split the paperwork. If divorcing spouses are reasonable and amicable, they can a faster and cheaper divorce. Some states allow ‘mutual consent’ divorces where spouses can waive process serving and prepare less paperwork for a simplified divorce.
Tip #4. Have a DIY divorce
A do-it-yourself divorce is a great option for divorcing couples who want to save money and can handle their issues without an attorney. Once a couple decides to have a conflict-free divorce, the entire divorce process is reduced to filing the paperwork with the court clerk and attending a final hearing to collect a divorce decree signed by the judge. Why would anyone need a lawyer for that? The spouses only need to obtain divorce forms (with or without children) and complete them. There are online divorce documents preparation services available to assist divorcing couples handle their divorce petitions correctly. They provide spouses with state-specific custom-made forms and filing instructions. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to get a finalized divorce over the Internet. But anyone can prepare their application for divorce online. Having a DIY divorce using an internet divorce service is the most affordable option out there.
Tip #5. Know when to get help
An uncontested divorce is the best way to have an affordable ending to one’s marriage. However, divorcing spouses may discover that regardless of their best intentions, they struggle to agree on specific terms of child custody, visitation schedule, alimony, or distribution of assets. But does that mean their divorce must be contested and cost them thousands in legal representation? Not at all. Depending on the issue, seek the expertise of corresponding specialists. For example, if you cannot split the family home or the partner’s insurance plan, a certified divorce financial analyst will advise you. Even if the problem is only about dividing debts, a recommendation from a financial expert will put your divorce case back on track.
Also, keep mediation in mind. Generally, mediators are less expensive than an attorney. Mediation is a very effective solution, especially when it is not very obvious why a couple cannot resolve their disagreement. Divorce mediation can help resolve your divorce out of court and arrive at a mutually beneficial solution.
For spouses who can afford to hire lawyers, a money-saving tactic is to have a collaborative divorce, where both lawyers look for cost-effective solutions.
Story by Awais Ahmed