Affordable Divorce is Possible: Save Time and Money By Being Prepared[ssba]
The emotional cost of a divorce is immeasurable. Even if the split is amicable, it’s still a major change in your life and the effects are devastating for both partners and any children involved.
However, whatever the emotional costs may be, the financial costs don’t have to be exorbitant. You’re probably picturing a court case following lengthy consultations with expensive lawyers. That’s one way to go about it, but it’s by far the most expensive way. There are other options that offer considerable savings in both money and stress and lower the overall cost of divorce.
Affordable Divorce Option 1: Collaborative Team Practice
A collaborative divorce is a cost-effective way to end a marriage. In this process, each of you will retain your own legal counsel, but the difference is that the lawyers will be working together rather than against each other. The goal of a collaborative divorce is to reach a settlement that is fair to both parties. Even the most difficult divorces can be resolved using the Collaborative team practice approach.
You’ll start with a series of meetings with your legal teams to work through any issues that need to be resolved. During these meetings, you and your spouse will sign a document agreeing that you will settle the divorce out of court. If the process breaks down and you do end up taking the divorce to court, lawyers who helped you try to settle will be obligated to recuse themselves and you will have to find new representation, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to make this work.
If you decide on a collaborative divorce, it’s crucial that both parties are absolutely truthful during the entire process. If any information is misrepresented or withheld, the collaboration process will fail and you’ll be right back at square one, which will require much more time and expense.
Affordable Divorce Option 2: Mediation
In a mediated divorce, both spouses will work with a neutral third party (not a lawyer) to negotiate terms. The goal, as with a collaborative divorce, is to reach an agreement that is fair to both parties. Again, absolute honesty is required from both parties in order for this option to work.
A mediator is very useful to help with tough decisions about the division of assets, but cannot provide legal advice. It’s a very good idea to consult your lawyer before going through mediation so that you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities. Additionally, your lawyer should review the final agreement before you sign it.
Affordable Divorce Option 3: Do It Yourself
Some couples are able to discuss and resolve their divorce related issues on their own. This is very cost-effective if you are able to negotiate on your own. Many couples are not able to do so and that’s why they are getting a divorce: communication is a problem for them. If you are able to resolve the issues on your own, don’t try to put it into a legally binding agreement on your own. You likely won’t get it right and then if your spouse changes their mind, a judge may say that your agreement is not worth the paper it is written on. A poorly crafted separation agreement is a waste of time and a missed opportunity. If you are able to negotiate an agreement, bring it to Galbraith Family Law and we will put it into a legally binding agreement so that it will be respected by the court and long-lasting. The marriage may not have lasted forever but you sure want your separation agreement to do so.
Decide Which Issues are Most Important
For any of these options to be successful, each spouse needs to be prepared to work together to achieve the best outcome. It’s wise to ask yourself a few questions to prepare for this process:
- What are the issues I really care about?
- How much are these issues worth to me?
- How likely is it that I will win?
- How can I compromise?
- What does my spouse really want from a settlement?
- How much will it cost me to argue?
Even with the most amicable of divorces, emotions will be running high, which makes it difficult for people to make sound judgments. By taking some time in advance to clarify your own position and lay everything out, you’ll be able to present your arguments much more clearly. Also, after sorting out which issues are the most meaningful to you, you’ll know in which areas you can allow a little latitude, which opens the doors to successful negotiation.
Reduce the Cost of Divorce With Advance Preparation
Now that you know which issues are your highest priorities, it’s time to prepare more extensively for the negotiation process. The more you learn in advance, the lower your monetary costs will be. Here are some more steps you can take to reduce your financial burden:
- Read up: Learn everything you can about how the divorce process works. Make sure you’re finding information from reputable sources – i.e., professionals in the field of family law – not personal anecdotes.
- Don’t take advice from friends: You definitely need to rely on your friends and family for emotional support during this difficult and painful time, but you shouldn’t rely on them for legal advice. Get the real information from your lawyer and seek a second professional opinion when necessary.
- Talk to a therapist: Any divorce is difficult and painful emotionally. Consider finding a therapist, or at least a good friend, who can help you work through your emotions and keep your time with your lawyer focused only on legal matters.
- Document everything: Take detailed notes on every divorce-related conversation you have with your spouse and save all of your emails to each other.
- Collect documents you will need: You will need documents to prove every asset and every debt as at the date of separation and the date of marriage. That includes bank statements, credit card and line of credit statements, investment statements and a value of your real estate investments. You will also need your income tax returns for the last three years.
- Scan your documents: If you have access to a scanner, use it. It is cheaper for you to send your documents to your lawyer already scanned. If your lawyer has to scan it, you’ll be charged for this service. Just do it yourself.
- Prepare a binder: Keep everything organized by putting it all into a binder, with all of your documents sorted into categories, including correspondence, financial information, and details of what you’d like to see in the final agreement.
- Write down your questions: So that you don’t forget anything and have to schedule another meeting with your lawyer, write down all the points you want to discuss to make the most of your time.
- Don’t dawdle: There will be times when you’re asked to prepare and submit certain documents, such as financial statements. It’s in your best interests to do this promptly so that the whole process isn’t being held up.
A Few Final Tips for Affordable Divorce
To keep the financial costs of a divorce as low as possible, it helps to remember that the end goal is for both of you to be able to move on with your lives. Granted, there will be issues that are important to both of you that may be hard to agree on, but don’t turn everything into a fight. Although we realize this can be difficult, in order to avoid going to family court you’ll need to focus on the things that matter most, such as the best interests of your children. In order to do this, you’ll need to communicate as efficiently as possible and make sure to document everything to refer to later.
It’s also vital that both of you are completely honest with your lawyers and/or mediator. Sometimes it’s tempting to withhold or fabricate information to try to make things go your way during the division of assets, but that’s a very bad idea. Surprises during the divorce process will require more time and resources to sort out, meaning that the cost to you will go up substantially. Keep everything honest and aboveboard if you want a successful, affordable divorce.
A divorce can be financially devastating, but it doesn’t have to be. By taking control of the process, educating yourself, and working together rather than fighting each other, you can manage the outcome much more easily and get through the divorce sooner than you might think.
If you’re considering a divorce and would like to try collaboration or mediation, Galbraith Family Law can help. Just send us a message through our website or call our Newmarket office at (289) 319-0635 or our Barrie office at (705) 727-4242. We will explain your options for an affordable divorce.