Going through a divorce or custody case can be draining. The emotions involved can often take their toll on your physical and mental health. In addition, family law litigation is not cheap. You may find that just to get simple agreements accomplished in your case may take hundreds or even thousand of dollars. Sometimes, this is true whether you have an attorney or whether you try to do it yourself.
As family law attorneys with a combined twenty years of experience, we have put together this list to offer you some helpful tips and tricks to try to save you money during your divorce and/or family law case. The list is long, but if you consider most of the advice in this list, you should save time, money and the emotion distress that may come with a family law case.
- Research and learn about Nevada family law. There are great resources on-line, at Nevada Legal Aid and through the Clark County Self Help Center.
- Organize your documents before hiring an attorney. You need to know what you have at the date you married as well as the date you separated. You will need records of your bank accounts, pay check stubs, tax returns, pensions, stock accounts, retirement accounts, mortgage statements, car titles, insurance documents, purchase documents for any real estate you own, any refinance documents, credit card statements, loan statements and any pre- or post-nuptial agreements, just to name a few. It is best to start gathering these items now and to provide them to your attorney before you file your case.
- Consider mediation. If you think you and your spouse can work out a division of assets, debts, support and custody before you file, mediation is often less expensive and less adversarial than a family law trial. Mediation can be done by hiring a private mediator. The family court also offers low cost mediation services. Finally, the law school at UNLV has a mediation clinic and can mediate divorce cases.
- Appraise your pension and your spouse’s pension. It is best to know the value of the pensions before you divorce and whether the pensions will be subject to a QDRO. Contact your plan administrator to find out of they offer QDRO services in the event of divorce.
- Interview several lawyers. Before hiring an attorney, it is important to talk to a few and find the one you like. Be sure to ask about fees and how they are calculated before you hire an attorney. Find out who will work on your case and how you will be billed.
- Get referrals for lawyers. The internet and other mediums advertise attorneys. Lots of them. However, Yelp reviews and Google reviews are just the insights of a few clients when most experienced family law attorneys have handled thousands of cases. The best lawyer might not be the most expensive or be the one with the best on-line reviews. Look for referrals. Ask friends, co-workers, and family members.
- Avoid paralegals and/or document preparers. We've done lots of articles on why you should be cautious using a non-lawyer to prepare your family law paperwork. It is important to remembers that these folks are not attorneys and cannot and should not be giving legal advice.
- Don't hire the lawyer who tells you not to speak to your spouse. Unless you are in a domestic violence situation or have a restraining order, it is our opinion that open dialogue with your spouse about your family law case will help your case move faster, with less adversity and at lower cost to you.
- Wait until you have several questions before calling your lawyer. If you have a lawyer that bills by the hour, you will be charged for each call regardless of whether the call takes 1 minute or 100 minutes. Save up your questions to save your pocket book.
- Use email to talk to your lawyer. This may be cheaper if not free and may often get a response before your attorney has a chance to return a phone call or schedule a meeting.
- Be prepared for meetings and court. Bring documents with you and prepare a list of questions or concerns before you meet with your attorney and well in advance of your court hearing.
- See a tax specialist. Most lawyers don't have tax law training and cannot advise you on the tax consequences of your divorce. Seeing a tax specialist can offer you insight into how to proceed with your family law case in a way to save the most money.
- Don’t fight for principal or just to fight. Things are just things and can often be replaced. Sometimes it is best to just let some things go – this will save you the emotional costs we discussed above and will also save you financially. It is silly to spend $5,000 arguing over something that costs $50.
- Divide personal items yourself. The judges will not determine who is getting the pots and pans. This is something you and your spouse should be able to resolve without a judge and lawyers.
- Don’t panic. Getting divorced means you may have to take on tasks your spouse used to do and you won't like it because there's a reason your spouse took on these tasks. It can be overwhelming. Resist the urge (or need) to panic and pay someone to help when you can do it yourself. Break things into smaller tasks, join a therapy or support group, keep a journal, etc.
- Don't cancel anything. Maintain the status quo. Don't change or cancel health insurance, phone service, child care, etc. until the divorce is final. If you try to stop payment on your spouse’s health insurance before the divorce is final, there is a good chance you will be penalized by the Court and you may be forced to buy a private insurance policy for your spouse. We understand it’s tempting but it’s not worth it.
- Prepare for the end. Talk to insurance brokers (health, auto, liability, home, life, long term care, disability), financial advisors, estate planners, account holders (change beneficiaries), your children’s school, medical providers, etc.
- Plan for your children’s college now. Discuss this with your spouse. Child support ends when your child is 18 or if he is still in school at age 18 then at age 19 or when the child graduates from high school whichever happens first. There is no requirement that a spouse paying child support will be required to pay for college. Discuss this with your spouse and make plans to save money for college now.
- Compromise and know when to give up. If you agree to it, you're more likely to stick to it, which lessens fees later. Also a compromise means you may move on with your life faster and there will be less fighting.
- Lower your expectations. Even the best lawyers cannot deliver unrealistic results. An effective settlement in any case is often one where both parties are unhappy with the result. Never is this more true than in the case of a divorce. You cannot reasonably expect to get everything you want in a divorce. It's a divorce - it sucks. It sucks less if you have realistic expectations for the outcome of your case. It will also make the process faster and will cost you less.
- Remember that getting divorced means you can no longer live as if you are married. You will need to save money, change your spending habits and do things on your own. This also means you are starting a new chapter in your life and moving on. Try new things.
- Understand you can't control your spouse. If you try to dictate what your ex will do with the kids, or how your ex will spend money once you are divorced, you will likely find yourself back in Court and spending money on lawyers and court fees. Accept that what your spouse does once the divorce is final is up to them.
After you read these tips and trick, if you need more assistance, our office will be happy to consult with you. In today's economy, having the backing and experience of an experienced family law attorney on your side at a fraction of the cost can be the difference between winning your case or losing everything. Call us today at (702) 433-2889 to schedule a consultation or fill out our on-line form for more information.