9 Tips TO A SIMPLE AND AFFORDABLE DIVORCE
In this guide, I’ll share with you some tips on how to have a simple and affordable divorce, regardless of your social and economic background. Especially during these tough times of COVID-19, this will help couples and families that would like to have a cost-effective and simple divorce.
a lawyers' guide on how to save money in a divorce
Can everyone have a simple divorce?
For varying reasons, not everyone can have a simple divorce. This article is for couples and families whose sole focus is to have a cost-effective and simple divorce with no drama. If you feel betrayed or hurt and unable to have a peaceful way to resolve your case, court might be the only solution. Or you can read on further below to learn more on how to divorce in a high conflict case.
9 Ways to save money in a divorce
The number one key to an affordable divorce is communication. I can’t emphasize this enough. When I say communication, I don’t mean sit down and have a conversation with your ex to talk about their day or yours. The kind of communication I’m referring to is very basic. The two of you already know that there is an impending divorce, so talk to your spouse and set your priorities straight. Talk about exploring ways of how to have the most cost-effective and least expensive divorce. Remind each other of how silly it is to spend your hard-earned money on attorneys. Keep in mind that if emotions are still running very high because one of you is still reeling from the heartbreak, it might not be a good time to have such a conversation. If that’s the case, there are many other tools that you can use to have a peaceful divorce which I explain further below.
Settle your divorce out of court
This one is a no-brainer if you are interested in a straightforward and uncomplicated divorce. Getting a divorce is hard enough, please don’t make your life more miserable by going to court in the hopes that a judge who knows nothing about your life will decide a better outcome for you. In some cases going to court may be the only way to have a resolution. But for those couples and families who want a simple and smooth divorce then the court is not for you. In my twenty years of experience as a practicing family law attorney and mediator in Pasadena, I have found that those couples who stay out of court feel much more empowered at the end of their divorce than when they first came in to begin their divorce process. The reason for that empowerment is that when you stay out of court and negotiate your own divorce, you are in full control of your own outcome. The common excuses I keep hearing for as to why people end up in court are: “I couldn’t afford an attorney or couldn’t afford the mediator’s retainer.” Actually, there are free resources and tools at your local courthouse and online that can help you navigate through a divorce without going to court or having to hire a divorce lawyer.
Long drawn-out divorces can be very expensive and in most cases are the cause of deep-seated and irreparable harm to the children. In order to mitigate this problem, some couples want to move at lightning speed. As a divorce lawyer, I recommend mediation for that goal. In a mediated divorce, couples can complete all of their divorce documents and paperwork in no time. In fact, couples can set their own pace as to how quickly they would like to dissolve their marriage. The number one benefit to a speedy divorce is obvious: you save a lot of money the sooner you can resolve your issues and have your divorce decree. The second benefit of a fast divorce is to cut down on the emotional and psychological damage. Long drawn-out divorces can create such high conflict between the feuding spouses to the extent that the toll the divorce takes on their families is often irreparable. Children usually suffer the most in such cases.
Mediation can save you money in a divorce
By far, the most effective way of obtaining an affordable divorce is mediation. Divorce mediation doesn’t mean reconciliation. Instead, in a mediated divorce you hire one neutral mediator that helps you have a conversation that leads to an agreement. It is not the mediator’s job to decide who gets what, but rather to provide guidance in reaching a mutual agreement. There are different kinds of mediation to choose from. Anyone can be a mediator but it’s highly recommended that you get someone who is both a divorce attorney and mediator. On the one hand, the benefits of using a divorce attorney as your mediator are that they can generally provide you with information on the law regarding different issues pertaining to your divorce. This way, you can make an informed decision on what the outcome might be if you were to go to court. On the other hand, a mediator who is not an attorney is prohibited from giving legal advice. However, your mediator is not your advocate. The mediator’s role is to be neutral and not to advocate or represent either of the spouses. If you need more detailed explanations as to your legal rights, you would need a consulting attorney.
One of the most inefficient ways to have a painless and smooth divorce is by comparing your divorce to someone you know. This could be your friend or a family member. Your divorce is as unique as your fingerprints no matter how similar your circumstances may be to your friends or family members. One of the pitfalls that divorcing spouses fall into is by comparing their friends settlements to their own. It’s one thing seeking emotional support from your friends and family; it’s another taking financial and legal advice from them. Friends can be great for support and helpful during a divorce. However, they can in some cases inadvertently fuel the fires.
Keeping our emotions out the divorce can be a serious challenge for most people. After all, the very reason you are getting a divorce is that you have been significantly hurt. Right? Well, that may be true but under California Family Law, you don’t need a reason to get divorced. This means that no matter how angry or hurt you may feel, you cannot stop someone from divorcing you. In California, it’s called irreconcilable differences. California is a no-fault state which means you don’t need to prove there is a reason to obtain a divorce. So, the divorce is going to happen no matter what. Treat your divorce as a business transaction, and not as the opportune time to lambaste and blame your ex for how horrible they are. Again one size doesn’t fit all. If emotions are too high, you might want your day in court. In that case, you can stop reading this because this guidance will not work for you. Or you can read further below on how to deal with emotions in a divorce. In any business transaction, the main focus and goal is the bottom line. In this case, your bottom line could be child custody, spousal support or equitable property division. Successful business executives get their success by focusing on ways to maximize their profit. In other words, don’t dwell on the past if you want to have a straightforward and uncomplicated divorce. Spending a lot of time venting about atrocities during marriage is a waste of time and money. All those bad things might have no bearing on the outcome of the divorce. In other words, don’t spend a lot of money paying a mediator or litigation attorney to listen to old stories. A little historical background is helpful, but not hours and hours of emotional outbursts. Stay focused just like you’d in a business transaction and close the “deal.”
I promised you another tool on how to deal with a divorce when emotions are running high. Using the collaborative divorce process can be very helpful in a high-conflict divorce. Collaborative Divorce is also beneficial to families with a high net worth and those that own businesses. A collaborative case is a team approach. The collaborative team is made up of peacemaking professionals that help to support the whole family. This is a completely different environment than litigation cases because litigation requires at least 2 cut-throat, bulldog attorneys aggressively fighting each other.
With a collaborative divorce team in place, each spouse may have a divorce coach to help with the emotional piece of the process. Divorce coaches are enormously helpful in high conflict divorces. Just like in mediation, their coaches’ job is not to reunite you couples, but rather offer guidance and emotional support to walk away from the marriage. Divorce coaches are different from marriage counselors and therapists that work to unite couples. When each spouse has a divorce coach to help them navigate through this process, it may be easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel as they’re navigating through your divorce.
Another benefit of the collaborative divorce process is the use of one neutral financial expert to do all the financial and property evaluations and analysis. This can help to save a boatload of money for those families with a high net worth or those who own businesses.
Even the most affordable divorce lawyers will end up costing you a lot of money if you’re not organized. Here are a few tips to help you stay organized in a divorce:
Get a consultation with your potential mediator or divorce attorney before starting the divorce process. Thankfully, many mediators and divorce lawyers offer FREE initial consultations. In the initial consultation, they’ll usually walk you through the necessary steps required to complete a divorce.
Create a Checklist: I know this sounds redundant as some people are able to retain information without the need to refer to a checklist. However, I find that even the brightest minds will usually forget some of the information that was provided to them at the initial consultation. Creating a cheat sheet will save you money as you don’t have to inundate your mediator with emails and phone calls asking them to repeat the same information. Keep in mind that most attorneys and mediators bill you for every text, phone call, and email. The more you can refrain from asking for information that was already given to you, the cheaper your divorce will be. In some cases, the mediator will use a flip chart to educate you on the steps to getting a divorce. If you take a picture of that mediator’s flipchart with your phone, that can become your checklist.
Create a Spreadsheet: Creating a spreadsheet with all your financial information might save the lawyer time which in return, will save you money. Remember that lawyers typically bill by the hour. The more time that your attorney spends sifting through a pile of unorganized paperwork in order to draft your financial documents, the more you pay. A spreadsheet can significantly reduce that time.
Being transparent in a divorce will significantly help you attain a low cost and cheap divorce. The opposite of being transparent means hiring a divorce attorney to conduct discovery just to find out the same financial information that you could have exchanged at the kitchen table. Under California Family Law, you are both entitled to see each other’s financial documents. It doesn’t matter if your case is litigated or amicable. You are entitled to each other’s financial information under California Family Code, Section 2104 requiring Financial disclosures in every divorce case. (Read more on how to find out about your spouse’s finances.) The consequence of not being transparent is that your divorce could be set aside and re-litigated for lack of full disclosure. Another benefit of being transparent is that it builds trust. The more you trust each other in a divorce, the higher the likelihood that you will have a straightforward and uncomplicated divorce. While it’s understandable that a lack of trust may have led to the demise of your relationship, transparency may be a way to help you rebuild some of that trust again for the sake of resolving this chapter of your life and moving on.