The financial costs of divorce can be significant. If you want to save money on your divorce, read our tips on how to save money, limit the costs of your family law matter, and avoid racking up unnecessary fees along the way.
1. Keep talking with your ex
Reaching agreement on as many aspects of your divorce as you can will ensure the process is faster and less expensive. Of course, this is not always possible, eg. if family violence is a factor. But in other circumstances, do your level best to keep the negotiations going so that you can sort as much out as you can without the need for lawyers or court.
2. Agree on personal property
Sometimes, parties will get into a nasty dispute over a fairly trivial element of the divorce, for example arguing over a piece of furniture. But it’s important you don’t spend money on lawyers arguing over something with little worth. 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.
So, where possible, avoid being stubborn as it could well cost you in the long run.
3. Hire the right lawyer for you
You need a family lawyer who suits you as well as fits your budget. 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.
4. Make the most of your time with your lawyer
Preparation is key, knowing what questions you want to ask, and bringing as much information to your lawyer as possible.
Before all your meetings with your family lawyer make sure you have spent time organising exactly what you wish to discuss and have your questions written down. Similarly, having all your documentation requested on hand and organised.
Take notes when you have meetings with your family lawyer as well so that you remember the information and advice later on.
5. Be honest with your family lawyer
So that you can get the most appropriate advice for your family law matter, it’s vital that you are really honest with your family lawyer. Your family lawyer must be fully aware of your financial matters so you don’t force your ex to delve into your affairs and obtain subpoenas to find out information—this will just draw out the legal proceedings and add to the cost. You could also be penalised by a court if you do not comply with your duty of full and frank disclosure.
There really is no 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.
6. Be super 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.
7. Draft your financial statement
Complete the first draft of your financial disclosure statement yourself. You’ll need to retrieve and gather all necessary supporting evidence and documents, like bank and credit card statements, proof of income, mortgage information, tax returns and so on. Your family lawyer can provide you a template and a list of documents needed. You will save money if you can hunt down as much as possible without needing your lawyer to obtain information through discovery.
Also, by providing this to your family lawyer in one go will help speed up the process.
8. Organise PDFs
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! For example, you can do simple things like organising PDFs of all your documents to save your lawyer having to do this admin grunt work.
9. Don’t use a lawyer as 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 psychologists, 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 if you are eligible for a mental health plan, which may fund your mental health treatment partly or wholly through Medicare—talk to your GP for details).
10. 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.
11. Stay out of court if possible
Do what you can to reach agreement outside of court. Consider your options in terms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) processes such as mediation, arbitration and collaboration. These are all much more cost-effective, faster and less stressful ways to resolve your divorce than litigation.
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.
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.
12. Contact paralegals instead of 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. 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.
14. 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.
You can read about how we keep our costs down here.
15. Hire the right 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.
Do you need assistance with a family law matter? We can help you decide on the best pathway for you to reach agreement with your ex. 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.