How Clients Can Help Lower Their Divorce Costs

Q: What Can I Do to Keep My Divorce Costs Lower?

Getting divorced in Phoenix or elsewhere doesn’t have to be expensive in every case. With the exception of instances where couples are not willing to compromise at all on certain issues or where one partner is hell-bent on dragging the process out without regard to the time and costs, there are several ways couples might reduce the overall cost of getting divorced. 

For couples who are motivated to part amicably, divorce mediation can save them money. This option works well when the couple is in agreement on important basics like decision-making and parenting time or spousal support. If they can agree on those big issues, then there’s a good chance that with the help of a neutral third-party—a mediator–they can work out an agreement. A skilled mediation attorney helps the parties through the process and prepares and files all the legal documents with the court, making mediation the faster, cheaper, and less emotionally-stressful than a traditional divorce action.

Essential time-saving tips

Divorcing couples know that time is money, so if they can partner with their divorce lawyer and use their lawyer’s time wisely, they can keep their divorce costs lower. 

Here are a few time-saving tips:

  • Get financial records together so the attorney knows all the property and assets, debts and liabilities that need to be worked out. This includes gathering the paperwork related to all real estate, cars, bank accounts, pensions and retirement accounts, credit cards and other debt. The last few income tax returns and last few pay stubs are also important. Organizing and promptly providing these records cuts down on the time the attorney must spend sorting them—or repeatedly requesting any missing records.
  • Communicate in a time-efficient manner. Using email instead of the phone when possible can often save clients’ money. A clear and concise email can relay questions and answers in less time than a phone call that might run longer and veer off-course. For phone calls, be prepared and focused during the call. Write things down, like questions or next steps, to keep moving forward and avoid unnecessary repeat calls or letters.
  • Access the right professionals. While care and compassion are important hallmarks of a good divorce attorney and clients should expect to feel supported throughout the process, there are sometimes situations where a therapist may be needed, too. Letting the lawyer handle the legal work and seeing a therapist, if needed, to work out complex emotional issues allows clients to cost-effectively access the most-qualified professional for their different needs.
  • Compromise when possible. Even if they can’t do mediation, there may be some things couples can agree on. These include dividing up household assets or avoiding paying for appraisals on homes and vehicles when possible. Even agreeing on how to fairly handle retirement funds. 

For example, if retirement accounts are (or are close to) equal, couples may agree to have each partner keep their own. If they aren’t close to equal, they might agree to giving the partner with the lower retirement fund other joint marital assets (like the home in some cases) and allowing the other partner to keep their retirement fund. In this way, couples may be able to avoid the expense of a court order called a qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”) wh