Divorce is an unfortunate reality in society today. Sometimes the divorce is in the best interest of everyone involved and other times it is one sided. There are always hurt feelings and raw emotions but it is possible for a divorce to not be incredibly expensive.
Some divorces need to be fought out in court. Sometimes the circumstances are such that there is no other alternative and the costs go through the roof. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you follow some basic guidelines you can reduce the overall cost of your divorce.
To Lawyer Up Or Not To Lawyer Up
Most States will not allow one lawyer to represent both sides of a divorce. The reasoning is that a lawyer must strive to represent his or her client to the utmost and they cannot do so if they have a conflict of interest. A lawyer cannot put one client’s needs above another in the same case and not have a conflict of interest.
It is possible to get divorced with only one lawyer. The lawyer must represent one side or the other and the party without a lawyer simply chooses not to hire one. If this is the direction you are headed make sure that you are the person the lawyer represents and that it is very clear in your contract with them that they represent you, even if your spouse is the one that is paying them. You should never agree to finalize a divorce without a lawyer if the other side has one.
If you are only going to have one lawyer agree in advance who they will represent.
It is also possible to hire an attorney by the hour to review a final decree before you sign it. If the other side is telling you everything is “standard” it wouldn’t hurt to spend a few hundred dollars to verify those claims.
No Lawyer Divorce
Getting divorced without a lawyer is possible but difficult, especially if you have children. If your spouse has agreed to everything you can do the paperwork yourself and file for divorce. You are held to the same standards as lawyers appearing before the court so you need to be prepared. You will need the following documents at a minimum and some areas may require more:
- An original petition for divorce
- Waiver of service or proof of service.
- An original answer
- An agreed final decree of divorce signed by both parties and any attorneys involved.
- A withholding order for child support if applicable.
- Required forms for the office of vital statistics or similar government entity.
Help From The County
Many Counties are now providing free consultations with an attorney for agreed or default divorces. The attorney is attached to the court and waits in the courtroom to assist any one attempting to finalize their divorce without an attorney. Generally they only assist in situations where there is no conflict between the parties. They are essentially there to help you prepare the necessary paperwork and not to provide legal advice.
Cheap With A Lawyer
If you do have a lawyer there are a few key things you can do to keep your costs with your lawyer down.
- Keep calls to a minimum. If your lawyer bills you for phone calls, and most do, keep your calls short and confined to the important things.
- Paralegals can be your friend. If possible talk to the paralegal instead of the lawyer. They generally bill at a lower hourly rate than the lawyer.
- Be organized. If you provide evidence to your lawyer organize it first. If they have to spend hours sorting it you will pay more than if you spent the time doing it yourself.
- Talk to several lawyers before you make a decision on who to hire. Make sure that they understand how you want to handle the case and that you are on a budget.
- Make sure the retainer they set is reasonable to cover the entire cost of the case.
- Beware of small upfront retainers. When they run out you have to pay more or lose your attorney.