In a divorce, or for women facing a divorce, the potential cost is one of the scariest parts. People tell me literally every single day that they’re afraid they can’t afford to get a divorce.
I won’t lie to you and tell you that divorce is inexpensive. I won’t tell you that I haven’t seen very, very expensive divorces. But I also won’t tell you that you don’t have any control over the cost of your divorce because, ultimately, you do.
…Wait, what? You have control over the costs in your own divorce? Of course you do! This isn’t really groundbreaking stuff. But, still, I’ve been surprised, over the years, to see how much disconnect there often is between what the costs of the divorce add up to, and the choices the client makes. You DO have choices, you know! And, with careful planning, you can make the best choices possible to both wind up with the results you want and also minimize your total overall costs.
Follow these steps if you’re interested in saving money on Virginia divorce:
1. Get Virginia divorce information up front.
You should have a clear idea of your ideal divorce ahead of time. Don’t go barreling on ahead without any view for the immediate or distant future. That happens a lot in cases I see. When people are emotional, they tend to act irrationally. They engage in fights. They do sketchy things (like empty out bank accounts or dump the contents of the garage into the street) that make their husband angrier. They talk about “the principle.”
If you’re just shooting blanks, take a step back. You’re not doing anything to help the situation. In fact, you’re likely making it worse. The more the situation deteriorates between you and your husband, the harder it can be to get things back on track later. Though there’s no question it’s an emotional process, now is the time to start gathering information – not shooting off the hip. Make careful, considered, planned choices designed specifically to both move your case forward and get the results you want. Take anger, frustration, or hurt feelings out of the equation as much as you can. (If you’re struggling with this piece, why not talk with a therapist? It does NOT mean you’re crazy.)
A lot of that comes from knowing ahead of time what to expect with the divorce process. Find out what your rights are. Find out what assets and liabilities exist. Sit down and talk with an attorney and figure out what you might reasonably expect to receive. Calculate child and spousal support. Talk about your contested and uncontested divorce options. Begin to plan moving forward, so that you have a plan you feel comfortable with and that takes your goals into account. You can either schedule a consultation to talk to a lawyer one on one, or, if you’re not quite ready for that step yet but still want information about what to expect from the Virginia divorce process so that you can begin to at least think through your options, attend one of our monthly divorce seminars.
2. Hire the right Virginia divorce attorney.
Not all attorneys are created equally. If you start meeting with them, you’ll see. Some are more aggressive, or tend to file more motions, or take dramatic action. Lots of people tell me they want a “pit bull” or a “viper” or some other kind of attorney but, I can tell you, fireworks cost serious money. I’m not saying you don’t want an attorney who will aggressively represent your interests – you do – but you want to make sure that your attorney isn’t sending up fireworks just to increase up your bill (and help the attorney put all of his children through college).
Sit down and have a real conversation with your attorney. Talk about your goals. Come up with a plan. Ask questions. If the attorney is arguing for a specific course of action, ask why. In most cases, litigation is dramatically more expensive than negotiation. Ask about alternatives, or why the attorney believes a specific course of action will be best for you in your case. I’m not saying that litigation is never the right choice just because it’s expensive – in fact, there are definitely certain situations where litigation is the ONLY course of action, and to try to negotiate would only drive up the bill unnecessarily. (Like, for example, if he says, “I don’t care what your agreement says, I’m not signing ANYTHING,” you might have to file for divorce.) But make sure your plan is carefully considered, and designed to yield the results you want.
You should get a good vibe from your attorney, and feel like she is listening to you and taking your priorities into account. You don’t want someone who is being aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive ($$$), you want someone who is clever, understanding, and willing to adapt the process to fit your individual needs.
3. Communicate effectively with your Virginia divorce attorney.
When I say “communicate effectively,” I mean two things. First of all, talk to your attorney about your financial goals. Be up front about your financial picture, how much money you have to spend, and where you want to spend that money. Create a case strategy that includes your financial goals (both currently and post divorce), and then do your best to follow your attorney’s recommendations to meet those goals.Secondly, communicate when necessary, but don’t go overboard. Sometimes, I get a client who will email me 6-7 times a day.
Attorneys bill on a time expended basis, so if you’re constantly sending in more questions, you’re not maximizing your use of your attorney’s time. I’m not saying don’t ask questions; ask away, it’s what you’re paying for! It’s just that you should take care to ask questions in a way that maximizes the attorney’s time. Have a lot of questions? That’s fine; why not combine them all into one email? Even a weekly email, in some cases, can save a lot of time and trouble. Gather your questions throughout the week in a draft version of an email you plan to send to your attorney. If you still have the same questions on Friday (some of them will likely have worked themselves out), hit send.
The bottom line is that you do have control over your total costs in a divorce. You can’t control your husband or the attorney he hires, but you can take careful, considered steps to make sure that you have all the information you need to make the best choices possible. That, my friend, can go a long way towards giving you the results you want at a price you can afford. For more information or to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.