Making the decision to get divorced is tough enough. Going through the process can be even tougher. Legal fees that keep on coming, hours spent waiting in crowded courtrooms, and angry arguments about everything from where the kids will live to who gets the big screen TV can leave everyone poorer and exhausted.
If you’re involved in a divorce the following tips may allow you to save lots of money and avoid lots of aggravation:
1. Agree on things when you can. Extended court battles are expensive and often not worth it. In some cases (such as where there is a nasty custody fight) lengthy trials can’t be avoided. But where the only issues involve finances and the division of property, keep in mind that most divorces will resolve within a very narrow range that can be determined early on. Fighting over a few dollars can lead to large legal fees (they can be $500 per hour or more) that often won’t change the result significantly. Avoid letting your emotions and your desire to punish your ex lead to wars that are simply not worth the expense and aggravation.
2. Keep in mind that child support is largely pre-ordained by the State Child Support Guidelines. The amount of child support is fixed except in some circumstances in which deviation from the Guidelines will be allowed. That means that if your income is x the child support order will be y. So this is one of the issues that should be resolved without a lot of fighting.
3. Consider whether a fight over alimony is worth it. Unlike child support, alimony is not largely pre-ordained. There are no formal alimony guidelines, but that doesn’t mean that your lawyer can’t reasonably predict what a judge will do if you go to trial. Armed with your lawyer’s educated prediction ask yourself: Is it worth spending many more hours in court and $6000 in additional legal fees to avoid having to pay my spouse the extra $150 per month he/she is asking for?
Realize that fights over temporary alimony and support may not make sense. Courts have the power to award alimony and child support while the divorce is pending. Then, when the divorce goes to judgment, the court will enter permanent awards. Since the temporary orders may be in effect for only a few months (until the divorce is finalized) you may want to avoid a major battle over temporary orders. Don’t give away the store, however. Sometimes the amount of the temporary orders can influence a court’s thinking about what the permanent orders should be.
5. Avoid unnecessary discovery. Every responsible lawyer needs to obtain certain information about the opposing party in order to determine what orders make sense in a divorce case. But, where the parties have limited resources, multiple sets of lengthy discovery requests and depositions will often not change the result. Talk to your lawyer about what discovery efforts are really necessary and why.
Getting divorced can be emotionally and financially draining. If you’re involved in a divorce, using these tips can make the process simpler, quicker, less expensive, and hopefully less painful.