Divorce can be a lengthy process that may strain your finances and leave you feeling out of control. But with the right preparation, you can protect your interests, take charge of your future, and save yourself time and money. You certainly never expected divorce when you cut the wedding cake; you and your spouse planned on spending the rest of your lives together. Unfortunately, the fairy tale didn’t work out, and you’re headed for a divorce. So where do you begin?
There’s no legal requirement that you hire an attorney when divorcing. In fact, going it alone may be a sensible option if you’re young and have been married only a short time, are childless, and have few assets. However, most divorcing couples hire attorneys to better protect their interests, even though doing so can be expensive. Divorce attorneys typically charge hourly rates and require you to submit retainers (lump sums) up front. The charges will depend on the complexity of the case, the reputation and experience of the divorce attorney, and your geographic location.
You should know that if you’re a homemaker or earn less income than your spouse, it’s still possible to obtain legal representation. You can submit a motion to the court, asking a judge to order your spouse to pay for your attorney’s fees.
If you and your spouse can agree on most issues, you may save time and money by filing an uncontested divorce. If you can’t agree on significant issues, you may want to meet with a divorce mediator, who can help you resolve issues that the two of you can’t resolve alone. To find a mediator, contact your local domestic relations court, ask friends for a referral, or look online. Certain attorneys, members of the clergy, psychologists, social workers, marriage counselors, and financial professionals may offer their services as mediators.
To save time and money, compile as much of the following information as you can before meeting with an attorney or other divorce professional:
If you’re uncertain about some of these areas, you can obtain the necessary information through your spouse’s financial affidavit and/or the discovery process, both of which are mandated by the court.
Although your divorce professional will help you work through the big issues, you might want to think about the following questions before meeting with him or her:
In addition to an attorney, you may want to see a therapist to help you clarify your wishes, express yourself more clearly, and deal with any child-related issues. Such counseling is typically covered by health insurance.
Keep the following tips in mind: