Are you in need of a divorce but worried that you can’t afford it? Or, are you worried that a divorce that was recently filed against you will cost too much for you to respond to? Do you know what the costs of a divorce are, where they can be reduced, and whether or not you even need to hire an attorney? These are all valid questions to have when you are just starting your divorce journey. However, the best time to ask questions and receive answers is before you need those answers.
Learning the answers as soon as you can and avoiding mistakes down the line is what I would recommend to you or any other person who is going through a divorce. Nobody wants to have to deal with the stresses and difficulties of a divorce. Even those people who are anticipating a relatively quick in easy divorce don't know what their case could look like by the end. We like to think that we can adapt to changes in our case and adjust based on the additional factors that become present but the reality is that it is better to have a plan that is adaptable and does not have a plan at all.
This rule applies even more strongly when you are extremely budget-conscious. That's not to say that any of us could afford to go into a divorce with no cares at all as far as how much the case will cost. I have never met a person who went through a divorce who told me that their only wish was that the case could have cost more money. Everyone would rather save money in a divorce than spend it. The key to this discussion is being able to identify those areas of the case where you can potentially save money rather than spend it unnecessarily. This is what I would like to help you identify today. Where is it possible for you to save money in a divorce case and what can you do to help avoid spending unnecessarily.
Do you need to get a divorce?
This is probably the most obvious question to ask yourself about a divorce but is one that many people do not. For most of us, getting a divorce is not a foregone conclusion. I think that if you and your spouse are willing to put in the effort then you can choose to avoid getting a divorce. It takes concerted effort and enjoyed cause to do so, however. This means that you should identify as quickly as you can whether or not your spouse is on board with attempting counseling or at least discussions about whatever problems in your marriage R leading you towards considering a divorce.
A good place to start on this subject is to identify whether or not your spouse even agrees with you that there are problems in the marriage. If your spouse will not even concede that there are problems in the marriage that need to be worked on then you may not be able to save the marriage. In that case, you should begin to prepare for a divorce. On the other hand, if your spouse acknowledges that there are problems in the marriage then the next thing you should figure out is whether or not he or she is even willing to work on them. Again, many people consider problems in the marriage to be a foregone conclusion that divorce must be the next option. If your spouse is this mindset then you may not have a choice when it comes to getting a divorce.
Otherwise, you should engage in conversation with your spouse, possibly with the assistance of a therapist or counselor, to work your way through these problems. Longstanding difficulties in a marriage do not resolve themselves on their own. Rather, they take concerted and intentional effort to be able to remedy them. You and your spouse know yourselves better than anybody else. As such, if you don't believe that you have the necessary communication tools to be able to work your way through these problems then enlisting the help of an experienced marriage counselor or therapist may be what is best.
Without a doubt, trying to avoid a divorce is much easier before the case is filed. But there is nothing in the rulebook that says you can't pause a divorce after it the case is filed but I can tell you that it is much easier to attempt a reconciliation before the case starts. Once the case gets goings and an emotional switch is turned on that makes it very difficult to turn off. As a result, working out problems in your marriage before you file for divorce is the best time to do so.
If you need a divorce, do you need an attorney?
Assuming that you have put sufficient thought into the matter and have determined that a divorce is necessary for you and your family the next question that you should ask yourself is whether or not you need to have an attorney representing you. This isn't quite a $1,000,000 question but it Is important nonetheless. Attorneys tend to be the largest expenditure during a divorce. That doesn't mean that your attorney will not be worth every penny you pay him or her but the fact is that you need to be prepared for paying the costs of having a lawyer.
That is unless you don't need an attorney to represent you in your divorce. This may seem like a surprising thing to read on the blog of a family law attorney but I believe that not every person going through a divorce needs to hire a lawyer. The Texas family code does not require you to have a lawyer to get divorced. Although I will say that lawyers can be beneficial in any type of divorce there are divorce cases that are not as reliant on having attorneys to produce good outcomes for both parties. The key to this discussion is being able to determine whether or not your divorce is the type of case that will benefit most significantly from having a lawyer.
First and foremost, if your divorce does not involve children then you may not need an attorney. As a parent of three little kids myself, I would be misleading you if I didn't say that children were the most important part of any divorce that I have ever worked on. Almost universally, parents spend their time concerning themselves with their children over any other subject in a divorce. As a result, this should show you that no matter what else is going on in your case if you have kids then they will be the focus of your ongoing divorce. If you do not have kids then the ability to not have an attorney in your case goes up.
The other reason why you may not have to hire an attorney for your divorce is if you have no children and no significant property interests involved in your case. Although I would never say that property issues in a divorce are as important as issues dealing with children the fact is that some of you reading this blog post may have high net worth's, complicated Estates, small businesses that you operate in many other considerations that may cause you to require the assistance of an attorney to complete your divorce. Even if you are a skilled business person there is no substitute for having an experienced family law attorney by her side to help guide and protect you when your assets are most vulnerable such as in a divorce.
Even if you don't have a significant property interest in your divorce and you have no children you still may want to hire an attorney. You have to consider whether or not you have the time and the desire to provide almost single-minded intensity towards completing your divorce. For instance, do you have a job it takes up a fair bit of your time, hobbies, interests, or other family matters that may take you away from being able to devote the necessary time to complete your divorce? One thing an attorney will do for you is ensuring that your case moves along the timeline and completes itself sooner rather than later. Not having an attorney to represent you means a greater likelihood that your case is delayed indefinitely.
Did you shop around for an attorney?
Once you determine that you do need an attorney for your divorce the next logical question you should be asking yourself is who do you hire? With so many options in Southeast Texas to choose from I understand how it could become overwhelming regarding deciding on a lawyer to represent you. With that said, I would like to spend some time discussing how you can minimize your overall costs right off the bat when it comes to hiring a divorce attorney.
Any experienced real estate investor will tell you that the true money you make the best money you make in the entire process of owning real estate is at the purchase of the property. If you can get a deal on a piece of land, a home, or a commercial building then you start ahead of the game. I like to think of hiring an attorney in the same way. You can worry all day and all night about how much the attorney will cost you once you have hired him or her but if you can find the right attorney for you and your budget during the interview process that will save you more money than nickel and diming yourself during the divorce.
As I mentioned a moment ago, you must be able to interview as many attorneys as you feel comfortable with before actually hiring one. It may be that the attorney around the corner from you is the right attorney for you. However, simply hiring a lawyer based on their website, their proximity to you or any other factor is not necessarily going to put you in the best position. Rather, I would recommend taking the time and personally interviewing at least three attorneys before making up your mind on which one to hire.
This is where we get to talk about things like value in hiring an attorney, pier dollars and cents in hiring an attorney but also things like hourly rates of what your attorney will charge you. You can talk to an attorney and figure out how much experience he or she has in handling divorce cases. I would never recommend you hire an attorney who is less expensive but has no experience in divorces. Like any other product or service that we buy you typically get what you pay for. As such, hiring an attorney who is less expensive but has never tried a divorce case before is not a recipe for success.
The other factor that you should be considering when interviewing attorneys is what they charge and how they charge it. The vast majority of family law attorneys charge clients an upfront retainer or down payment to retain their services and then bill you subsequently for work done on your case. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan is very transparent and clear about how our pricing, fees, and collection of payment works. We also have an entire staff here at our office who is devoted to explaining these issues and working with you throughout your case to make sure your questions are answered and issues are addressed.
The other issue that you can consider is hiring an attorney based on a limited scope agreement. This refers to the idea of hiring an attorney based on only utilizing the lawyer for a limited period, for example, you could hire an attorney only to represent you in mediation or a specific hearing. You could also hire an attorney just to review paperwork and draft documents for you at the end of your case.
You can talk to an attorney about whether or not they will be willing to represent you in this manner. Some attorneys are unwilling to engage in limited scope relationships. Other attorneys, like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, are very flexible and willing to work with you based on your needs and budget to accommodate you and do what is necessary to ensure the success of your case.
This could be a great way for you to be able to get the most bang for your buck but also protect yourself and your family during a divorce. I'm not recommending that everyone try and engage in these types of limited scope arrangements but for some families, they may work well.
Work your hardest to settle your case in mediation
Finally, any cost-conscious or budget-conscious person who finds themselves in a divorce scenario should especially consider going to great lengths to avoid protracted litigation. Generally speaking, the longer your case takes to complete the more expensive it will be. However, there are methods to shorten your case and ensure that you reached a just final result.
The most effective means to lessen the financial costs of a divorce and generally shorten the time length of a divorce is to work hard regarding negotiation throughout the case. Taking every opportunity 2 attempts a settlement of your case is probably the most direct way to limit costs throughout the divorce itself. Keep in mind that every time you have to call your attorney, respond to an email or go to court with your lawyer means that the lawyer will have to charge you for having done work on your case. However, if you do most of the negotiation with your spouse yourself and maintain a good relationship you can certainly limit costs.
Finally, attending mediation and taking that process seriously is a great way to avoid the possibility of a trial. Mediation allows both sides and an experienced family law mediator to work together to see if settlements are possible in various areas of your case. From my experience, divorce mediations are effective had settled the vast majority of cases. Coming into mediation prepared and willing to negotiate is a great mindset to have.
That's not to say that every divorce can and should be settled. You may find yourself in a situation where you have to go to trial for various reasons. However, most of the time divorce cases can be settled in mediation or even before mediation. Sometimes all it takes is being willed to set aside your pride and instead work towards resolutions that are best for all parties involved. Work with your attorney throughout the case to identify those areas where you are willing to negotiate and which areas you are not. This will help you to prepare for mediation as early as possible.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.