Secrets a Divorce Lawyer Doesn’t Want You to Know
It seems like more and more couples are choosing to get divorced. It’s almost expected these days to turn on your television and hear about the latest celebrity divorce. You’re also likely to hear divorce news from your circle of friends and family members.
If you’re the one going through a divorce, your first instinct might be to turn to your divorce lawyer when questions come up. However, there are some things your divorce lawyer might not be willing to tell you.
Here are the secrets a divorce lawyer doesn’t want you to know.
1. Some dishonest attorneys overbill by encouraging fights
Divorce is an emotional time. However, it’s important not to let your emotions rule your decisions. In a column for Futeral & Nelson law firm, one attorney says some lawyers will encourage soon-to-be exes to fight about trivial matters, so they can drag things out and charge more money. Consequently, an argument about a $70 vase could lead to hundreds of dollars in legal fees. You could buy several new vases with that money.
Next: This person could save you thousands.
2. You can reduce costs by hiring a mediator
Divorce mediation is an alternative to going through the formal divorce process. A divorce mediator is a neutral third party who, along with your lawyers, helps negotiate a resolution. Divorce mediation generally takes less time than litigation (which reduces costs), and some courts offer inexpensive mediation services. This is a low-cost way to tackle issues such as property division, child custody, child support, and visitation.
Next: Take this off your lawyer’s hands.
3. You can save money by photocopying your own documents
It’s tempting to leave small tasks to your lawyer and his or her team. However, doing some things yourself will save you money. Don’t forget that lawyers bill for time spent working on your case. Even minor tasks could cost you. You’ll be billed for the time the staff spends copying your paperwork. Instead of taking on these costs, do it yourself. Also make a copy of the documents for your files.
In his column for Family Advocate magazine, divorce lawyer Miles Mason, Sr. gives a list of documents a lawyer might request. He recommends having both digital and paper copies available. Says Mason:
To save money, some lawyers encourage clients to copy and organize documents themselves. Other family law attorneys will perform these tasks in order to handle them within their own document management system. Who copies, scans, and organizes documents often depends on the size of the estate and the complexity of the disputed issues.
Next: Do it yourself.
4. You can handle some parts of the divorce yourself
Is a lawyer necessary for a divorce? Maybe not—at least when it comes to certain parts. Another secret your divorce lawyer might not share is the fact you can handle some parts of the divorce on your own. If your divorce is uncontested, this is an option you might want to consider. In an uncontested divorce, you and your soon-to-be ex agree on major terms of the divorce.
According to Jonathan Jordan, a family law attorney with Tingen & Williams, this means you and your spouse agree on child support, child custody, spousal support, visitation, and property division. Although you have this option, Jordan warns you must be very careful. Says Jordan in his column for the law firm:
This can be tricky because the paperwork and court procedures can be a bit complicated. Though difficult, it might be a good option if you have more time than money. You will need to research all the forms, rules, and procedures, and prepare your own documents.
You may even be able to draw up your own separation agreement, as long as the terms are fair to both parties. Making agreements can be risky if you are not careful. You will want to know the basic rights and responsibilities of each spouse in order to make a fair agreement.
Next: Not so fast.
5. In some cases, you might want to delay your divorce
If you were married for 10 years or more and you are age 62 or older, you’re eligible to receive a portion of your former spouse’s Social Security benefits (or disability benefits). However, this only applies if your spouse’s benefits would be more than the benefits you would receive based on your work history. Delaying your divorce could result in more money for your retirement. Just remember you won’t be eligible for your former spouse’s benefits if you decide to remarry.
Next: Don’t be chatty.
6. Contacting your lawyer can get expensive
Don’t forget you’re being charged for communicating with your lawyer. Even if it’s just a short email or quick phone call, it could make a big difference in your bill. So, if you’re feeling down about the divorce or just want to talk, book an appointment with a therapist. Don’t vent to your lawyer; it will cost you.
Next: Swallow your pride.
7. You may have to accept responsibility for the divorce
If you are involved in a fault-based divorce, things could get messy. A fault-based divorce is when one spouse engaged in behavior that gives legal justification for ending the marriage. Some examples include adultery, cruelty, a felony conviction, or desertion.
If you are the spouse who engaged in one of these behaviors, this could negatively impact decisions such as child custody and property division. Unfortunately, you may have to be the one to accept responsibility for the divorce. Consequently, it’s important to be prepared.
Next: Cough up the cash.
8. Divorce is a lot more expensive than you realize
Divorce is expensive and it can cost more than many people are prepared to handle. Know that a contested, litigated divorce can cost as much as $50,000 (and in some cases even more). Although there are ways to reduce costs, it’s still going to cost you a lot of money. Prepare beforehand by putting yourself on a budget before you file for divorce. Live as if you’re already single. This way, you’ll have a better chance of emerging from the divorce financially healthy.
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