Don't let a pending divorce enrich the lawyers

How to Reduce the Cost of Divorce

by Shaunna Privratsky

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According to a New York Times article from December 2, 2014, divorce rates have been steadily declining since the 1990s, but the myth persists that 50% of marriages end in divorce. In fact, 70% of couples who married in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary, and the 2000s are even more hopeful with two-thirds still together.

The unfortunate fact remains that some marriages end in divorce. The leading cause is conflict over finances. But how much is a divorce going to cost you? The simple answer is there is no set amount, but you can control costs in a variety of ways. Use these tools to reduce the cost of a divorce.

  1. Check with your local county's website for free information and forms to download. In uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on the major issues, it can be a straightforward filing fee, usually $100 to $400, plus any attorney's fees.
  2. Contact Legal Aid. They can assist you in finding free or sliding-scale lawyers.
  3. Look for lawyers that advertise flat-fee divorce services, but remember that cheap isn't always the way to go. Check credentials and reputation at the legal directory Martindale-Hubbell and your local bar association website. Decide if you both need lawyers or search for a joint attorney.
  4. Need legal advice?
    Visit NOLO today for your legal needs.

  5. If your lawyer charges an hourly rate, keep costs low by cooperating fully, refraining from calling or emailing every question that comes up, and doing your own research if possible. All attorneys should give you a written estimate on how much the divorce will cost.
  6. Children are another huge factor in divorce. Who gets custody and who pays child support, if any? This is where lawyers come in and possibly mediators, independent child custody evaluators, and court proceedings.
  7. Agree with your spouse that things will be handled civilly, as this will speed up the proceedings and help keep costs down. However, if one partner is vindictive or angry, this drives up fees and delays filing.
  8. Shut down your social media platforms, as anything posted can be used against you in custody battles, alimony arguments, and child support.
  9. Separate your bank accounts as soon as possible to facilitate the divorce.
  10. Pay off and cancel joint credit cards. If this isn't possible, take one person's name off the account.
  11. Use these guidelines to choose the best plan to pay off your credit card balances.

  12. If you qualify for low income status, ask the judge to order your spouse to pay the legal bills. This works when one person makes significantly more than the other.

Once your divorce is final, there are more financial adjustments to come. Suddenly you are living on one income. You may have to move to a different home. When you were first starting out, it was kind of fun to use bricks and boards for your entertainment center and that thrift store couch was just fine. Eating out meant the discount menu at a fast food place and Ramen noodles were a staple. Now you have to adjust your budget and your expectations in your new circumstances.

Are you heading for debt trouble? This simple checklist can help you find out and provide options for doing something about it.

There are almost as many reasons to get divorced as there are reasons to get married, and every couple's story is unique. But if you work together to make the divorce as painless as possible, you can both come out with a brighter future. You just have to ask yourself if you can afford a divorce.

Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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