9 Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your Divorce

There is no question that divorce is a costly proposition. Divorce can be expensive and time-consuming. Your divorce need not include unreasonable legal fees though. Avoid these high-cost mistakes if you hope to keep your total costs to a minimum.

  1. Get Organized. Divorce is, at the heart of it, a financial and business procedure. Thus, it makes sense to treat it like one. When handling business matters, you probably try to approach things in a methodical, organized way. Documents, information flow, and attention to detail are crucial for successful business transactions. The same is true for a divorce. Division of assets, valuation of assets, determination of alimony, and resolution of child support all depend upon a thorough assembly of information for all of the assets and debts in your marriage.

    It can be time-consuming to gather and organize this information, but the more organized and clear you can be in presenting information to your legal team, the less you will need to spend on legal fees. Even if you yourself do not personally locate and organize the information, it is still less expensive to have your assistant, accountant, or business manager prepare the information in a systematic and cataloged manner than it is to leave your legal team scrambling to obtain documents and find accounts.

  2. Be Mindful of Time. Your legal team bills by the hour. Any interaction with your lawyers or their paralegals or assistants is on the clock. Thus, it makes sense to limit your calls and emails when possible. A good approach is often to maintain a list of questions and concerns and present them all together once a week, rather than reaching out individually with each inquiry.

    Also, keep in mind that although you may be anxious to hear about updates to your case, your attorney will contact you when there is news. Frequent calls or emails to check-in simply run up your legal bills. If you do have questions about matters such as scheduling, be sure to speak to an assistant or paralegal so as not to be billed at your attorney’s high rate.

  3. Be Responsive. While you are certainly busy with your own life, be sure to respond to inquiries from your legal office quickly. Often certain documents cannot be filed, or the next step in the case cannot be taken until the information is received. Delaying a response not only lengthens the amount of time before your case will be resolved, but also results in follow-up calls and emails from the legal team, which you will be billed for. Likewise, if you are asked to complete, review, or sign documents, time is of the essence in doing so.

  4. Be Realistic. Ask your attorney what a reasonable outcome is in your case, and let them guide what you should seek in your case. It is not reasonable to think you will get everything you ask for. Divorce instead is a process that requires compromise. If you cannot compromise, the court will do it for you. Pushing your legal team for unrealistic results will not only cost you more in terms of legal fees, but it will create more and stress and frustration and likely further damage your relationship with your spouse (and if you have children together, preserving a respectful co-parenting relationship is important).

  5. Resolve what You Can. Any agreements or resolutions you and your spouse can come to on your own will reduce your legal fees. Although it may be difficult to communicate in the midst of conflict, it is worth attempting to resolve what you can on your own. For example, if you are able to work out a visitation schedule (even on a temporary basis) or divide household items on your own, it will result in savings. The more issues you leave for your attorney to handle, the more you spend on legal costs.

  6. Follow Court Orders. If the court issues temporary orders for your case, it is imperative that you follow them. Violating these orders often means your case will be brought back to court to deal with the violations, which generates legal fees for the court appearance and preparation. Additionally, violating a custody and visitation order can result in a change to your parenting plan, leaving you with less time with your children. Contact your attorney if you are unsure how to follow the order or what to do if it is impossible for you to follow it rather than simply disregarding it.

  7. Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution. A litigated divorce is the most expensive way to end your marriage. A courtroom divorce usually involves extensive settlement discussions, followed by months of trial preparation, and then the weeks of court appearances. Settling your divorce is always the least expensive method, so be sure to try to work through settlement with an open mind. Mediation is also a cost-saving option.

    Another option to consider is using a private judge. A private judge is hired by both sides to arbitrate the divorce. The case is tried before the judge with rules similar to those in a traditional courtroom, but the case moves much more quickly and is resolved sooner. This affords not only complete privacy, but allows for your case to be handled quickly because the judge is not hearing other matters simultaneously. Additionally, the attorneys on both sides may reach stipulations that will reduce the time needed before the judge, saving more money.

  8. Work with a Therapist. The legal aspect of divorce is a fact and law-driven process. However, divorce can be very difficult on a personal level. While your attorney understands the feelings you are facing, they are not trained to help you manage the emotions that you face as you move through the process. Instead, it is very important to work with a counselor or therapist who can offer a safe space to work through the complex feelings and personal dilemmas that the divorce poses. Therapists bill at a lower rate than attorneys, so saving these challenges for therapy makes sense.

  9. Be Honest with Your Lawyer. Your attorney needs all of the facts to be able to achieve the optimum outcome in your case. Hiding information or refraining from disclosing certain facts will cost you more in the long run since the entire strategy for your case may have to be repurposed when those facts come out (and they almost always do).

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Eric Weinstein

Eric Weinstein, a partner at New York matrimonial litigation firm Bikel & Schanfield, brings an unconventional approach to the high-conflict disputes over complex assets for which the firm is known.

Eric’s reputation for skilled diplomacy and successful negotiation is backed by three decades of experience litigating high-stakes disputes in New York’s state and federal courts, related to the high-value assets, complicated income streams, and unique financial circumstances characteristic of high-net-worth New Yorkers and their spouses including.

To connect with Eric: 212.682.6222 | Online

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