Obtaining a divorce can be incredibly costly for both parties. This is especially so if every issue is contested, and the parties cannot agree on anything. In situations such as this the parties will be required to attend court so that a judge may make a final order respecting divorce, division of property, custody and access and support (both spousal and child).
The parties will have to pay for any and all work done on their files by counsel (if they choose to obtain counsel) including any meetings, or court appearances that will have to take place.
An additional problem that may increase the cost of obtaining a divorce and settling all corollary issues is the fact that within the legal system there are always unforeseen or unexpected delays as the courts are backed-up and counsel are extremely busy which makes scheduling meetings or case conferences difficult.
Furthermore, opposing parties may be resentful and as a result intentionally fail to disclose important documents or show up for appearances thus creating more delays and increasing the costs of settling the issues.
Therefore you should read the following and bear these suggestions in mind when deciding the best and most cost-effective way to either divorce or separate from your spouse.
The most efficient ways to reduce the financial costs of divorce would be to retain a lawyer, ensure that you provide full and frank disclosure and settle all issues through a separation agreement as opposed to litigation. Although retaining a lawyer and paying the fees associated therewith may seem expensive and cost inefficient, you should be aware of the fact that separation agreements drafted by lawyers will take into consideration the rights and interests of both spouses and their children and ensure that the fairest settlement is reached. Moreover, the agreements will be drafted in compliance with the relevant statutes and consequently will most likely be enforceable in court and usually deferred to by judges. Therefore, the potential for future litigation, which will require retaining lawyers, preparing and drafting additional documents and attending court is greatly reduced if not eliminated.
If you are seeking to reduce the financial costs of divorce, then we suggest taking the following steps:
- Sit down with your spouse, if you are amicable and able to cooperate, and try to work together to negotiate an initial agreement. If possible you should attempt to agree on and finalize any arrangements regarding your children, such as custody, access and support. As parents you are in the best possible position to identify and implement arrangements that would be in their best interests.
- Next, you should contact a lawyer and provide him or her with any and all full and relevant disclosure thus ensuring the proper exchange of information. Your lawyer will be able to make all determinations properly and accurately which will have the effect of finalizing your matter more quickly which will consequently reduce the financial costs of divorce.
- If you and your spouse were able to negotiate on the matters in issue directly, then all that is required is that either your lawyer, or your spouse’s lawyer, incorporates those agreements into a valid written contract that complies with the relevant statutory provisions. You should be aware of the fact that drafting your own separation agreement and then bringing it to a lawyer to simply witness is not as effective. There will always be loopholes or considerations that you may overlook and which, in the long term, may be detrimental. The same reasoning applies to divorce kits which can be purchased in retail stores and that claim to be “just as good as retaining a lawyer”.
- You may also choose to hire a parenting coordinator to help with any future scheduling issues that may arise or increased expenses that were not anticipated. Incorporate the involvement of the parenting coordinator into the agreement so that if any variations need to be made, he or she may help you finalize a new agreement through either mediation or arbitration. This process is both cost and time efficient in comparison to going to court. Parenting coordinators may be either psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers and you should ensure that the individual selected by both you and your spouse has completed all the requisite training for mediation and arbitration.
Essentially, avoiding court and coming to an agreement quickly and independently are the two most effective ways to reduce the financial costs of divorce. Once you and your spouse have discussed and decided to separate, and the nature of your situation allows for it, then you should sit down and reasonably attempt to come to an agreement.
The importance of complete honestly and full disclosure must be emphasized. Complying with such is the only way to ensure the equal and proper division of assets as well as the adequate support of both children and spouses. Withholding crucial and relevant information or misleading the other side would only be detrimental and it could potentially result in:
- setting aside the agreement, or
- costly litigation
Therefore, deciding to separate and/or divorce amicably would greatly reduce the financial costs of divorce and, intuitively, it seems as through the mental and emotional costs would be reduced as well. Both spouses and children would not be forced to endure through long and oft-times bitter battles which can strain relations and traumatize children.