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5 Hints for Avoiding a Huge Divorce Bill

May 6, 2008
Divorce is difficult enough when everything goes smoothly. But when huge legal bills are pilled on the added stress can be a nightmare. Here is a list of 5 important considerations that could help ease the financial burden significantly.

1. Do you really even need to hire a lawyer? If you are unsure of your legal rights or responsibilities then there is no substitute for the advice of a lawyer, especially one with experience in divorce matters. However, once you have had your questions answered, you may find that you can handle your divorce on your own - or with just a little help.

In most cases spouses are able to work out the terms of their divorce without needing to ask a judge to actually decide anything. These are called uncontested divorces. They still involve a lot of necessary paperwork and court office staff are not able to do it for you or give you detailed help. Some are not even allowed to give you all the forms. But there are other options.

The cheapest way to go is to buy a do it yourself kit from a book store or business depot. This will give you the blank forms you need and some instructions on how to complete them and what to do once they are finished. Using these is trading time for money - you will save money but you can expect to spend a good while figuring out how to complete and use the forms.

A second way to go is to hire an online service that will take your information, prepare your forms, and email them to you along with specific instructions allowing you to file them at the court office yourself. For a couple of hundred bucks this is far easier than the do it yourself kit and still saves loads of money compared to hiring a lawyer to do it all for you.

2. Consider mediation. In the mediation process you are still in the driver's seat, no judge gets involved and lawyers are optional. Instead a mediator, a professional trained in assisting spouses to negotiate with each other, will help you settle any issues you have been unable to agree upon. Even touchy issues are usually successfully resolved when both spouses are prepared to give mediation their best effort.

Mediation is going to cost you a few thousand dollars so you have to keep the alternative in mind. Sure, if you and your spouse can settle matters without a mediator then that is the way to go. But if the alternative is a court room battle you will both by out tens of thousands of dollars. If you can spend a couple of thousand and avoid this through mediation then the choice is obvious.

3. Free initial consultations are often offered by lawyers looking for your business. Before booking an appointment with a lawyer make sure the first 30 minutes or so will be free or else call someone else. It may be that after getting some preliminary information you will find that you won't need a lawyer to handle your divorce and you can try one of the cheaper alternatives.

4. You always need to keep in mind that every minute your lawyer works on your case will be added to your bill - at a rate of between $150 to $400 per hour. Think of that every time you are tempted to call for an update or to complain about the latest thing your spouse did to annoy you. Instead, ask for copies of all correspondence to be sent to you and for a regular monthly update. It's almost always better (and cheaper) to make notes and discuss everything with your lawyer at once than contacting him/her about each little thing.

5. Negotiate a flat fee with your lawyer. This may not be easy, or even possible, as most lawyers charge by the hour. But if you can do it the peace of mind of knowing what the legal bill is going to look like at the end of the day is worth making the attempt. It also allows both you and your lawyer to focus on the real issues and not on who to minimize/maximize the bill.
About the Author
Visit the author's site at Divorce Canada as an example of a divorce document assembly service mentioned in this article. This location also contains over a hundred pages packed with useful information.
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