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How to Divorce on a Budget

Published by Nanni on Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Photo credit by EssG

Divorce is rarely inexpensive. For some couples, the attorney fees can go into thousands of dollars. And if there is a custody battle going on, the cost can go into the hundreds of thousands. The average cost of a divorce in the United States today is about $43,000. But there are ways to get divorced on a budget. The key is staying cool and calm, and difficult as it may be, cooperating with each other.

You can divorce without a lawyer and on a budget if your financial picture is simple and you don’t have debt together. There are even websites that walk you through an easy divorce process. It gets a little trickier if you have children together, but some people can quickly and amicably work out custody issues. Under these circumstances, you can get your divorce for less than $500. Another good alternative is formal arbitration, where you sit down and try to work out the details together. Attorneys may be involved in this, but it’s still usually cheaper than the traditional divorce process.

Unfortunately, for most divorcing couples, it isn’t that easy. But there are still ways you can cut costs if you follow some divorce tips.

The first step in divorcing on a budget is doing as much of the work that you can without an attorney. Although you’ll most likely have to get an attorney involved eventually, find out what information is needed and get the job done. Compile a list of assets. Gather bank statements, pay stubs and income tax returns. Get estimates on what the cars are worth. Pull together investment information and credit card balances.

When you do bring an attorney into the case, try to limit your contact time. An attorney will charge you for every minute of every meeting or phone call in your divorce procedure. Make a list of questions beforehand, so you won’t forget anything and have to ask for another meeting.  Ask your attorney if you can tape record your conversations to help you remember important items later. If you already having court documents pertaining to your case make copies of them you can leave with your attorney.

Custody problems are usually what drives the cost of a divorce sky high. In cases where there is serious conflict between spouses, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the children, and the two of you will have to pay that attorney. Additionally, the judge may order the two of you into psychological therapy. The children may have to go to therapy also. And another psychologist may be called in to do a formal custody evaluation, which can be as much as $15,000. With that many professionals involved, it doesn’t take long to run up the bills. Difficult as it may be, you can keep costs down by being realistic about the custody situation. Don’t start your new life by going into debt. Divorce is hard enough for children without seeing their parents run up bills just to hurt the other. Be civil, communicate with your ex with respect and remember the needs of your children come before your own.

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