Reducing and Resolving Conflict Also Reduces Divorce Costs
Focus on what matters to control your dissolution expenses
Felicia A. Soleil, Attorney At Law/Mediator
“How much is this going to cost me?”
This question is often among the first asked by my clients. Of course, my answer is always, “It depends.”
So many factors contribute to the cost of a divorce, some of which are out of your control. The better question might be “How can I reduce my cost of getting divorced?”
The most obvious cost factor is whether you engage an attorney to represent you. Divorce attorneys typically charge an hourly rate, depending on geographic location and level of experience. However, don’t let the difference in rate, alone, be a deciding factor. An attorney with a higher billing rate might save you money in the long run. For example, a more experienced attorney often takes half the time to complete a task versus a less-experienced attorney. Therefore, it is more important to gauge the experience level of your prospective attorney before letting billing rates determine whom to hire.
How you divorce matters, too
Another significant cost factor is how you navigate through your divorce. I define process options on a spectrum, ranging from the least to the most. It begins with a DYI divorce, often purchased as a kit, online, and expands to full-blown litigation. Be aware that there are other “costs” besides just attorney fees. I’ve helped many who elected a DIY divorce, only later to engage me to fix costly mistakes in decisions and document preparation.
Mediation and Collaborative Law fall in the middle of the spectrum and are ideal for clients who do not want to engage the court in their private family matter. Although both of these models use professional services, they are often far less expensive than going to court with an aggressive trial lawyer. Choose your process very carefully if you want to avoid litigation costs. A responsible family law attorney should be able to help you weigh the pros and cons of all process options that are available to you and be willing to refer you elsewhere if they don’t practice in the model you feel is best for you.
Aside from the specific divorce professional you hire and the process you elect, you can reduce your costs by gathering and organizing relevant financial documents for your attorney. Also, make wise use of your time. Each meeting with your divorce professional should have an agenda and desired outcomes addressing the issues at hand. When is the time to air grievances? It may be more productive and less costly if done with a therapist rather than a legal professional.
Reducing and resolving conflict matters, most of all
This does not mean to avoid conflict. Above all, seek to reduce, or at least manage, the conflict in your relationship. My mantra is conflict costs money. Disagreements around key issues, like money and parenting, are normal. It’s how you handle those disagreement that matters. Refusing to reach reasonable compromises or engaging in behavior that intentionally rankles your spouse, such as stalling, road-blocking, and negative communication, are expensive activities.
The more you focus on moving on, rather than simply moving out, the less you will spend in real dollars to get divorced.
Felicia Soleil can be reached at 253-853-6940. All consultations are strictly confidential.
This article was published in the June issue of REAL Magazine, page 18/19.
Published on June 1, 2018