Clients have asked over the years what they can do to save money in their divorce or child custody cases. I always have suggestions. I am sharing my most common suggestion – which also happens to be common sense. The largest expense a client incurs in a divorce and/or child custody case is the attorney fees incurred in preparing for trial and trial itself. Eliminating the trial eliminates the expense of those attorney fees. The easiest way to reduce the attorney fees is to avoid trial by entering into a settlement agreement.
A settlement agreement, also known as a separation agreement, is a written agreement whereby Husband and Wife are able to agree how the marital assets and debts are to be divided. In child custody cases, the settlement includes discussing where the child or children will live, how much time they are going to spend with each parent, where the child or children will attend school, etc. The key to a compromise settlement is for husband and wife to be able to communicate. Maintaining the ability to communicate helps facilitate the possibility of settlement rather than trial. Discussing with your spouse what assets or items each person wants are extremely helpful. As you might imagine, incurring attorney fees to argue as to who should be awarded the pots and pans, linens, etc. is not the best use of a client’s financial resources because many household items can be replaced with new items for the amount of money a client will spend in attorney fees. Clients will generally save money in their divorce cases if they can openly discuss with their spouse how to divide certain assets and debts.
Sometimes a husband and wife are unable to communicate with each other during a divorce, either because a restraining order has been entered or because the circumstances leading to the divorce make communication difficult. A compromise settlement can still be achieved even under these circumstances. The key to a compromise settlement is maintaining a reasonable approach to the division of the marital property and debts. Nobody really wants to take all the marital debts but receive none of the marital assets. In other words, a spouse is not as incentivized to settle the divorce case if they can only benefit from a trial.
This article is not intended to suggest that you should abandon obtaining a lawyer. A divorce is filed with a court. Courts are always involved even though lawyers can sometimes obtain a divorce for a client without the client actually attending court. Courts are not user-friendly to those people unfamiliar the rules, procedures and laws which judges are required to follow and uphold.