I get it, divorce is expensive. The higher the conflict, the higher the fees. So, with this in mind, here are some tips to keep costs as low as possible during your divorce.
1. If you and your soon to be ex-spouse are on amicable terms, don’t have parenting disputes and do not have complex financial issues, it might be worth trying to figure things out between the two of you rather than hiring attorneys. There are forms and instructions available at www.courts.state.co.us/forms. You will still have to pay court filing fees and the like, but if you are successful resolving your issues without having to engage attorneys, it will be significantly less expensive than the alternative.
2. Be thorough when choosing your attorney. Depending on the issues specific to your divorce you may want to choose an attorney who specializes in a certain area. There is a wide range of issues in which specific attorneys may have substantial experience. Examples include common law marriages, custody issues, commercial or residential real estate portfolios, domestic violence issues, executive compensation, and the list goes on and on. You’ll save yourself money when you pick an attorney that is familiar with the issues you are facing.
3. You also want to ensure that the attorney you choose has a practice style that will best advance your interests in the divorce. If you and your spouse are both on the same page about proceeding amicably, that goal can be undermined by choosing an attorney who has a reputation as a bulldog. Attorneys with a more confrontational style can increase legal fees. If your spouse has already hired an attorney, be sure to let the attorneys with whom you are consulting know who is on the other side of the case so that they, and you, will have an understanding of what to expect. The better your attorney and your spouse’s attorney get along the cheaper the divorce process will be.
4. Don’t drag your feet on paperwork, be organized, and do it right so you don’t have to do it again. Every time you get an email from your attorney reminding you to send in your paperwork it’s costing you, so be sure to get your attorney everything they ask for by the deadline they give you. If your attorney tells you something needs to be disclosed under the rules, then it needs to be disclosed. In Colorado, if your ex-spouse finds that you didn’t disclose material information in your financial disclosures, the divorce can be reopened for up to five years to reallocate the nondisclosed property. This means, you guessed it, even more legal fees.
5. Stay out of the courtroom if possible. When you make the decision to litigate you are giving an extremely large amount of authority over your life to someone who knows very little about you and will have very little time to learn about your case. Litigation can be very unpredictable even with a familiar judge. On top of this uncertainty, litigation usually comes with a rather large price tag considering the time your attorney will spend preparing for trial along with the hours spent actually litigating. There are many options outside of litigation such as mediation, arbitration, or even a Collaborative divorce. Know your options for settling your case without court intervention.
6. Attorneys and paralegals bill for replying to emails and for time spent on the phone with you. Sending a large volume of emails each day or staying on the phone for hours with your attorney, is likely not in your best interest if you are trying to keep costs down. If you have multiple questions, try sending all of them in one email instead of many separate emails. If you have questions, contact the paralegal first. The paralegal can’t provide legal advice, but if the question does not require legal advice, the paralegal can answer it at a much lower cost than the attorney. If they are not able to answer your question, they can get you on the attorney’s calendar.
Take your attorney’s advice. Helping people through divorce in an efficient way is their job, and this definitely isn’t their first rodeo. If you are paying an attorney to give you advice that you are unwilling to follow, you may have the wrong attorney, or you may be making bad choices in your case. Either way, a change is needed.
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