Want to save money on your divorce? Here are some tips we’ve compiled which can help you save money and limit the costs of your family lawyer as you go through the divorce process.
1. Find the best family lawyer for you
It will take a little research to establish how much experience various lawyers have, whether their approach suits you, and what the likely costs will be.
2. Check your costs agreement
Read your costs agreement thoroughly and make sure you completely understand the charges that will be incurred along the way. Make sure you understand how various services are charged and the rates to expect.
3. Look into Alternate Dispute Resolution
ADR processes such as mediation, arbitration and collaboration are all much more cost-effective, faster and less stressful ways to resolve your divorce than litigation. Of course, it may not always be possible to avoid court, such as if you have an extremely high-conflict spouse. However, you owe it to yourself to at least explore all your options before heading to court.
You can read the Family Court’s advice on ADR here.
Even if you can’t reach agreement on all the issues in dispute, ADR processes like mediation are helpful in narrowing the issues which may need to go to trial. Reaching an agreement with your ex is always less costly than litigation.
4. Do the gruntwork yourself
You want to cut down on your lawyer’s billable hours by doing as much as possible of the information-gathering and sorting of documents yourself. Don’t pay a lawyer to do the many things you can do yourself!
5. Draft your Financial Disclosure
Complete the first draft of your financial disclosure statement yourself. You’ll need to gather all necessary supporting evidence and documents, like bank and credit card statements, mortgage information, tax returns and so on. Your family lawyer can provide you a template and a list of documents needed, but you will save money if you can hunt down as much as possible without needing your lawyer to obtain information through discovery.
6. Agree on personal property
It just doesn’t make sense to pay lawyers to argue over items of relatively low value, like household furnishings and other small tangible items. Exchange lists of items you each want to keep and where there is disagreement, think about the true value of the item and whether it’s genuinely worth spending time and money fighting over it.
7. Be very organised
The divorce process can be so fiddly, and you need to keep on top of many little issues. Stay focused, make lists, prepare questions in advance for your lawyer, and organise your documents so you can easily find things. You don’t want to waste time in your lawyer’s office shuffling documents and trying to remember something you thought you wanted to discuss.
8. Consider unbundled services to save money
Paying for only particular services rather than a full-service from beginning to end is a great way to save money. With unbundled services, lawyers represent you only for a limited scope of services—providing as much or as little help as you decide you need.
9. Be frank with your lawyer
There is no absolutely point concealing information from your family lawyer. Your family lawyer can only effectively help you if you are honest and upfront about all the issues relevant to your divorce. To be able to prepare a good strategy for you, your family lawyer must know all the details and not be blindsided at a later date.
10. Don’t mistake your family lawyer for a psychologist
Nobody will deny that going through divorce is a highly emotional process. However, the appropriately trained professionals to assist you with the psychological impact of separation and divorce are counsellors and therapists, not lawyers. Lawyers are not trained to help you in this way, and taking up time discussing your feelings with your lawyer will likely cost you far more than seeing a counsellor (especially considering most Australians are able to receive a certain amount of mental health treatment partly or wholly funded through Medicare—talk to your GP for details).
11. Hire the appropriate professionals
There are many experts and professionals who may be involved during a divorce process, including accountants, financial planners, valuers and appraisers and even a divorce coach. Ensuring you hire appropriate professionals to do particular defined tasks during your divorce will help everything run more smoothly.
12. Contact paralegals not your lawyer
Paralegals and legal assistants bill at a lower rate than a family lawyer but are often able to provide you the answers you need without you needing to pay your family lawyer for their time. If you have administrative queries, such as when your next court date is, contact these staff members and only approach your family lawyer for actual legal advice.
13. Review your bills
As you receive bills from your family lawyer during your divorce process, review them to ensure you are happy with all the charges. It’s best not to wait until the whole process is finished and then start questioning charges. You may need to refine or clarify your agreement earlier on if there are any troubling bill issues, so that billing for the rest of the journey is crystal clear.
Read about how we keep our costs down here.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.