“My divorce was so cheap,” said no one ever.
In the last blog, we talked about patience and what to expect when you file for divorce. This post, we are going to expand on divorce and how to lighten the load on your checkbook.
Divorce is an unfamiliar and confusing path. It is important that you educate yourself. Learn the difference between fees that are necessary and mandatory versus fees that can be minimized or possibly avoided.
Let’s look at the fees commonly necessary and required when filing for divorce:
- Retainer is the initial fee you pay to hire an attorney. This fee is necessary to hire an attorney to represent you during your divorce case.
- Filing Fee is the fee charged by the Court to file your Petition for Divorce. This fee is set by the State.
- Service Fee is a required fee that is paid to a person that is certified through the Court to present the Divorce paperwork to the other party.
- Mediation is a step that is required by the Coweta Judicial Circuit. This specific step is an attempt to agree to the terms of your divorce without going before a Judge for a final hearing. You will need your attorney’s guidance through this process.
- Children of Divorce Parenting Class cost is a seminar that is required by the Coweta Judicial Circuit. The Court has specific agency/agencies that comply with the Courts standards. Remember, you must use a Court approved agency to receive credit for the seminar or receive prior court permission to attend another program.
Now, take a breath & let’s look at the financial aspect of your divorce that you can control! Obviously, uncontested divorces are the least expensive way to go. In this situation, all terms are agreed upon and it’s essentially “cut and dry”.
In the case of a Contested Divorce, what can you do to keep your fees to a minimum?
- Organize, Organize, Organize! – Gather all financial information. Be prepared to give your attorney tax returns, bank statements, mortgage information and map out all expenses.
- What is really important? Create a list of items that are important to you and address during your divorce case. Choose your battles wisely! Determine items that you will negotiate versus items that are non-negotiable.
- Short term & Long term Impact. It is very easy to be overwhelmed with the “right-nows” of your divorce you lose sight of the “what-is-to-come”. Consider all possible scenarios and how each will impact you 1, 2, or 5 years from now. Don’t leave loose ends and loop holes that will create a need for additional cost in the future.
- Involve your attorney as little as possible. The main purpose in hiring an attorney is to protect your rights and best interest in accordance with the law. Consider touching base with your attorney every 30-45 days if you have not heard from him/her. If you have questions during that time, write all questions down and ask during the same email/phone call/meeting. Your attorney is paid by the hour, each time you call, email or meet, the meter is running.
- Court hearings are sometimes very necessary, especially if the other party is being unreasonable. However, a court hearing, and waiting in court for your hearing, is one thing that will quickly add to your fees. You need to determine how important that particular issue(s) is to you and factor in what the expense may be.
In conclusion, there are necessary costs that come with a divorce and then there are the optional ones. As with many things in life, the more proactive you are about how you approach you divorce, will determine just how much money you spend in the long run. It has been said, “luck favors the prepared,” in this case educate and prepare yourself on the financial landscape of your situation and you will likely come out very lucky.