Divorce On A Budget: Self Help Divorce, Attorney Consultations & Minimizing Costs

If you are like many, you may find the possibility of divorce to be overwhelming and unaffordable. In addition to being a stressful and emotional time in your life, a divorce can also be financially draining. There are a number of ways, however, that a self help divorce can be achieved through a combination of quality divorce advice from a licensed divorce attorney and cooperation from both your and your spouse.

As most divorce lawyers will tell you, the least expensive way to achieve a divorce is through an amicable settlement involving both parties. If you and your spouse can agree on child custody (if applicable), alimony, the division of assets and other important information relating to the divorce, you may be able to achieve satisfaction through divorce mediation. Because a neutral third-party individual presides over the matter, both you and your spouse will need to seek the help of a divorce attorney if preferred. Although not required, a divorce lawyer can offer important information throughout the mediation process, including your rights under the current divorce laws and advice on divorce that you may not otherwise consider. A divorce mediation is quicker and more affordable than a lengthy litigation process through divorce court. There are several instances in which divorce mediation may not be an option, including a marriage that has a history of abuse or when one spouse is fearful of the other.

If you prefer to file divorce papers independently after having researched your own self help divorce information, it may still be to your benefit to consult with a professional divorce lawyer. In many cases, divorce attorneys offer a free initial consultation. It is important to inquire about this policy prior to scheduling a meeting, however, as every divorce lawyer has his/her own guidelines when it comes to client meetings and/or telephone calls. If you are able to schedule a free or low-cost consultation, it may be well worth your time to speak with a professional who can offer valuable divorce advice on your case. Because divorce lawyers are experienced and knowledgeable about local divorce laws, you may find that the information gained is priceless. Even if you choose to proceed with filing the divorce papers yourself, having spoken with a divorce attorney may prove to be helpful in the future. This is especially true if a problem should arise within the case and you can then retain the services of that same attorney who is already familiar with your situation.

In most areas, legal aid is also available to help those who are financially strapped and still need help with legal issues. Because the litigation process through divorce court is both complex and lengthy, the legal fees can quickly add up. In some instances, a trial may be the only option. For those who can work together, settle their matters in a civilized and fair fashion and wish to minimize their expenses, consulting with a divorce lawyer about various options may be a good idea. Unless you have a very good understanding of local divorce laws and the legal process in general, filing your own divorce papers may be difficult. If nothing else, a divorce attorney can help you to get the appropriate papers completed and filed while offering professional divorce advice to help make this stressful time a little less painful for all involved.

The information contained in this article is designed to be used for reference purposes only. It should not be used as, in place of or in conjunction with professional legal advice regarding divorce, child custody, alimony, self help divorce and/or divorce laws. If you are in need of divorce advice or are considering a marriage separation, consult with a professional divorce lawyer in your area for further information and/or divorce advice.

How Much Is Your Divorce Going to Cost?

Not surprisingly, we field questions about the cost of divorce in our office every day. Frequently, these queries come in the form of cold calls — an unidentified caller, without providing the most basic of information about himself or herself, expects our office support staff to provide an exact price for a divorce, as if he or she were shopping for some tangible commodity, like toothpaste. Perhaps even less surprisingly, none of these “price-shoppers” have ever become a client of the firm.

The process of providing a potential client with detailed information as to the cost of divorce necessarily begins with an initial consultation. We know that gathering information about the divorce process can be difficult and stressful, so we always attempt to schedule these consults within 24 hours of the your call.

During your consultation, we will gather critical data from you on a number of topics, including but not limited to: the disparity in you and your spouse’s ideas as to custody, visitation, and support of your minor children; the size and transparency of your marital estate; work and earnings backgrounds for both parties, for making critical analyses on the issue of spousal support and alimony; and, the level of acrimony currently present in your relationship, so as to have an idea if amicable resolution of ideas will be possible. Finally, we will discuss your personal goals in marital litigation, give you an idea of which goals are within the realm of possible, which are not possible, and what type of work will be needed to make these goals into reality. All of these factors and more will have an impact on the cost of your divorce.

It’s not just you: external factors will impact the cost of divorce.

Much of the cost of divorce can be controlled by the attorney and client: goals, methodology, style, etc. But be cautioned! The two biggest factors in the cost of divorce will be outside of your control. Those factors? 1) The degree to which your spouse is reasonable is his or her own expectations and/or methodologies; and 2) the degree to which your spouse’s attorney is reasonable in his or her expectations and methodologies. Neither of these factors are within our control, and should your spouse or his or her attorney decide to fight, tooth and nail, over every minute aspect of your case, expect the cost of divorce to increase accordingly. You are paying your attorney for his or her time, and every “battle” that is waged inevitably results in spending more time on your case. It is imperative that you understand this fact before leaving your initial consultation.

We don’t want to soak you: How we try to lower your cost of divorce.

Our business model does not depend upon charging our clients the maximum we can, and keeping your case going for the longest amount of time possible. Your life is too short for such foolishness, and ours are too. We want to solve your problems in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible, and deliver to you the results you seek, on-time and on-budget. How do we do that?

First, we will attempt to invite your spouse into the resolution process. If he or she feels comfortable participating in the process without an attorney, we will try to find a way to facilitate that. After all, money that comes out of either party’s pocket right now is really money out of both parties’ pockets.

Second, if full resolution isn’t possible at this stage, we will try to get your case to mediation in effort to reduce your costs. Sure, mediation is an additional expense, but that expense pales in comparison to duking your case out in front of a judge.

Third, we will not engage in extended, overblown negotiations in your case. Again, your lives and ours are too short to play “negotiation games” (you know the ones we’re talking about — asking for things you won’t get, lowball and highball offers, engaging in threats and coercion, etc.). You’ve sought the counsel of experienced divorce attorneys so as to avoid this sort of game-playing; if the facts and law are on your side, such tactics are unnecessary and can only add to the cost of divorce.

Finally, we employ qualified, experienced, compassionate staff, who are available to assist you at all times. We bill our paralegals’ time at a substantially lower rate than our own, but they are eminently qualified to assist you with many of your day-to-day questions and needs.

The Final Assessment: Your Cost of Divorce

By the end of your initial consultation, our divorce attorneys will provide you with an exact dollar figure that you will be required to pay to retain our services. We, like all divorce attorneys, charge retainers, meaning we charge our fee in advance, and bill against that fee until it is exhausted. Your initial retainer will represent our best estimate of the total cost of your divorce, meaning that, under ideal circumstances, you will not pay us another dime to complete your case. Again, this is our best estimate, and your total cost of divorce will be affected by external factors.

We represent a large and diverse segment of the community, and the retainers we charge reflect that diversity. In some cases, an initial retainer of $1,500.00 will suffice to protect your interests. In others, a retainer of $15,000.00 may be necessary. Either way, you will receive maximum attention and value for your investment in our services, and you won’t know where you case will fall in this spectrum until you’ve had a face-to-face consultation with us.

How to Hire a Good Divorce Lawyer

Finding a good divorce lawyer can be both time and energy consuming. It involves researching lawyers carefully, scheduling initial consultations and finally deciding on the best lawyer for the job. In addition to this, enquiring about the lawyer’s service, custody fights, experience with similar cases and trial versus mediation situations can be quite daunting. Also, finding the monetary resources to pay the attorney’s fees can become an area of concern. The following are a few aspects involved in hiring a good divorce attorney:

Finding a good divorce lawyer

Some of the best sources to ask for referrals of good divorce attorneys are doctors, therapists, the bar association, referral agencies and other lawyers. Ideally find three or more divorce attorneys so you can select from them based on who meets your criteria. Once a list of these lawyers has been made, contact them and schedule an initial consultation. On the basis of how well the consultation goes, you can make a decision.

Interviewing the lawyer

It is important that you ask for an initial consultation with the lawyer. Contact each lawyer on your list and ask for appointments so you can meet with them to discuss your requirements and gauge their services. Some lawyers offer a free half hour initial consultation, while others may charge you for this service. Also, make inquiries as to whether you will be expected to carry any documents when you go for the initial consultation so that the lawyer can better assess your situation.

Ask your divorce attorney about how he intends to proceed with your case. Get your lawyer’s opinion on negotiating with your spouse and taking your case to trial. If you have children whose custody can become a potential area of contention, ask your lawyer about the conditions under which sole and joint custody is awarded to parents.

Costs involved in hiring a lawyer

In relation to the costs of hiring an attorney, most clients are expected to pay retainer fees. Generally, this fee acts a surety that the lawyer will see your case through till it is resolved. In addition to this, you may be billed hourly rates for each consultation with the lawyer. Also if someone else is doing the paper work for your case you will have to pay assistant services rates. It is important to draw up a contract that details all the fees involved in hiring the services of a divorce lawyer.

Factors to bear in mind

Remember that an initial consultation with a lawyer does not imply that you have hired him. You can choose another lawyer after an initial consultation with one. Also, select a lawyer who explains the divorce process clearly to you. The lawyer should also be capable of handling both the trial and mediation efficiently.

Are You Ready For Divorce?

Understanding your rights is important in all legal matters. Having a plan to deal with the realities of divorce can help you get through the process more smoothly. Gathering information will help you create your plan. The three main parts to consider in every divorce are emotional, financial, and legal.

Emotional: The second most stressful event in a person’s life is divorce. Consulting a therapist and/or child specialist will help you prepare yourself and your children to identify, understand, and address the emotions that will follow. Avoid excessive eating, drinking, or narcotics (prescription or recreational) as these tend to exacerbate the emotional turmoil and can affect your ability to care for your children and yourself, and will likely be used against you later on. Working with a therapist throughout the divorce will help you process information and events in a healthy way and will keep you aware of what is happening within yourself and your children.

Financial: Whether you mediate or litigate, you and your attorney will need certain information in order to analyze and prepare your case. Take copies of the three most recent pay stubs for yourself and your spouse, the last 1 to 5 years worth of tax returns, statements from all bank accounts, credit card accounts, retirement accounts, mortgage, title documents, and any other assets and debts you and your spouse have. Be ready to finance at least the beginning stage of your divorce. If you have already filed or been served with divorce papers, you cannot transfer or dispose of any assets without the consent of your spouse or a court order except in the normal course of business and for the necessities of daily life. You can use community funds to pay your attorneys fees in the divorce. Most litigation attorneys charge a minimum of $5,000 as an up front retainer. At West Coast Mediation, mediation services are “pay as you go” – the time you use is the time for which you pay; no up front retainers. So you do have a variety of options. Keep an inventory of what was taken and have this list ready to give to your spouse or his/her attorney.

Legal: Your goals and your financial situation will help you decide what process to chose for your divorce. For example, if your goal is total financial and emotional ruin of your spouse at whatever cost, you should focus on hiring a shark attorney and financing an all out war in divorce court. If you are in a fear for your physical safety and/or that of your children, you may need to start with restraining orders. If your goal is to get through the process with as little emotional strain to the children as possible, you may want to consider a peaceful process that includes a child specialist. For those who are concerned about keeping the divorce private and confidential, a resolution process such as mediation or collaboration may be the best option. Few people realize that everything that is filed with the court is public record. You can go right now and read what litigants are saying about each other in divorce court by pulling their case file.

Have a plan. There are many options on how to divorce. Keep your goals realistic, based on the information you have gathered. The reality is that there is cheap, there is quality, and there is fast; there is no cheap, quality, AND fast. Depending on your situation, you may need immediate restraining orders or you may want to start a peaceful resolution. Identifying your goals, short and long term, with your attorney or mediator will help create the best course of action from the beginning. Emptying your joint bank accounts, will likely put your spouse in attack mode and will come up repeatedly later on: in declarations to the court, in your mediation sessions, or in creating a parenting plan. Everything you do, will be judged as if you are under the microscope. The tone you set at the beginning will carry on throughout the process and into your post-divorce co-parenting relationship. Keeping it fair while protecting yourself will ensure a smoother, more satisfying process.

Can You File For Divorce Without a Lawyer? 3 Tips

The decision to file for a divorce is never pleasant or easy. Whether or not you are 100% sure it is the right thing to do, filing for divorce always fraught with heavy emotion and sometimes even drama.

From a pure dollars-and-cents perspective, divorce is never free. However, the costs of divorce will vary greatly depending upon how you choose to go about it. There are always official documents you will need to file with local government offices, but these costs themselves are relatively low. The real costs involved in divorce have to do with paying lawyer fees, should you choose to go that route.

If you are wondering, “Can you file a divorce without a lawyer?,” here are 3 tips:

1. You are not legally required to have a lawyer when filing for divorce: In the U.S. and most other Western countries, getting a lawyer involved with your divorce is not required in most circumstances.

2. To avoid hiring a lawyer, you will need to be able to agree with your spouse on the settlement of assets and the payment of debts: The way to avoid involving a lawyer is to be on good enough terms with your spouse so that the two of you can agree on how to divide up two types of items: assets (i.e., property and money) and outstanding debts.

3. Be sure to file on time with the clerk of court: Also sometimes called the county clerk (depending upon the region), the clerk of court has the documents you need for properly filing for divorce. Consult with the clerk via their website, on the phone or in person if you are unsure about which documents you need to file.

To file for divorce without a lawyer, your first step should be to come to an agreement with your spouse about the settlement of your mutual assets and debts. Once you do, you can skip hiring a lawyer altogether and just fill out and file the paperwork yourselves. Remember, both spouses will need to sign the divorce papers and pay a filing fee for the papers – usually not more than $500.

Shared Property and Divorce

Most people understand that divorce proceedings can be difficult to deal with and are often emotionally-charged ordeals. During the divorce process, people may be forced to deal with many contentious issues like custody of children and the division of shared property. In some cases, disputes over how property is divided can become so heated that the judge may have to rule on what each spouse will receive.

For persons who wish to keep their divorce case as smooth as possible, it is wise to come up with a system for dividing property and ensuring that each person receives what they believe they are owed. While it may not be possible for each individual to get everything they want, they may be able to come to a fair agreement on how shared property should be divided.

There are many benefits to resolving property disputes without involving the court, including the conservation of time and money during the process. Persons who decide to contest certain aspects of their divorce case may be forced to pay additional court and legal fees that would be unnecessary if they could find a way to resolve the disputes in a peaceful manner.

When it comes to the division of property, many people recommend assigning value to shared property to make it easier to divide between the two individuals involved. This means assigning a dollar amount to each item and dividing the possessions based on the set value. This way, the property can be divided along monetary lines and the individual can feel like they are getting equal value to what the other is walking away with.

While it may be difficult to place a value on some of the items you own, this method may be the best way to resolve your divorce case without having to turn to a judge for ruling. In most cases, judges will ask that couples resolve such issues and not place decisions like that on the court. In the interest of saving time, human resources, and money, taking care of contentious issues like property division can be a helpful way of streamlining the divorce process.

It is recommended that individuals going through a divorce consult an experienced family law attorney. A divorce lawyer can help explain the process and your legal options and can be there to represent you in your time of need. It is wise to have experienced legal counsel on your side to help you reach a fair and reasonable understanding when it comes to custody, alimony or support, and the division of shared property.

Filing For a Divorce – Getting a Quick Divorce Has Never Been Easier

It is a sad fact of life, but almost 50% of all marriages end up in a divorce. We live in a time where love more often than not does not last forever. Perhaps you have already tried separations and counseling but you both have decided that it will best for everyone involved to go your separate ways. Whatever the case may be, whether you both agree or if there will be some sort of litigation, it is highly advisable that you have a consultation with a family law attorney in order to be fully aware and well informed of your legal rights.

DIY Divorce vs. Free Legal Advice For Divorce

When filing for a divorce you can basically do it two ways:

1 Do It Yourself Divorce. This is not advisable because you may not know what you are doing and end up making mistakes that can cost you custody of your children or money that you may be entitled to.

2 Get help from a divorce attorney. This is by far, the best thing you can do. Most family law practices will offer free legal advice for divorce during an initial consultation. They will explain to you the process to getting a quick divorce, what are the steps when filing for divorce and point you towards the first step in getting a divorce.

Receive FREE Divorce Consultation

Sometimes love doesn’t last forever. Now is the time to discuss your situation with a divorce attorney. He will explain to you how state laws can affect your divorce as well as receive guidance in your case. In order to access this free consultation, all you have to do is fill out a quick form with your basic information.

Rhode Island Divorce Tip – Work With Your Spouse!

A Rhode Island Divorce can be hard enough without all the costs that go with it.

Yet what does that have to do with the title “Work with Your Spouse!”, right?”

Well, it isn’t easy but if you and your wife can get to the point of realizing that you are adults, can and should act like adults and that you are adult enough to work out the settlement of your divorce together then you can save a lot of money on your divorce.

Recently Carly came to me and paid me for a divorce consultation. Carly and her husband Jacob had been married a long time.

Carly asked if she and Jacob could come in together and whether I could advise them both. I told Carly I was prohibited from representing them both in the same proceeding because their interests were adverse to one another.

Carly asked how they could just use one lawyer and save money on their divorce?

My answer? Work with your Spouse!

Carly was nervous but she did just that. She and Jacob worked out every aspect of what they wanted to agree to and they came in to see me. Jacob said that he was fine with the fact that I represented his wife and he was comfortable with the arrangement they had come to.

Carly told me what she promised to do and Jacob told me what he promised to do in return. I explained to them that I would hold both of them to their promises and I explained to Jacob that I considered him “PRO SE” and therefore I was required to treat him fairly and ethically and I could not deceive him or I would be violating my oath to uphold the law and I could be subject to disciplinary action.

In the end, the divorce will complete shortly and after countless divorces it will be the cheapest divorce I have ever helped a couple with and the most amicable as well.

How is this possible? Work with your Spouse!

Divorce in India – Advantages Of An Online Divorce

Family life and marriage is said to be the most important part in the life of an Indian. But the present times have reformed the social life of people greatly, making divorce a reality that the Indian society still grapples with.

People are moving away from traditional Indian values to adopt a more “open” western lifestyle. The idea of dynamism in society, culture and morals, has begun to alter the everyday lives of the men and women in India.

In the past centuries, divorce was considered to be unacceptable in the Indian society, which resulted in discrimination and abuse. That situation has changed now, and with the introduction of online divorces in India, that change has quicken its pace.

It is a welcome move since not a lot of people, especially middle-class India, can afford to fight it out in a court. People looking for a cheap and quick proceeding can now go ahead with their decision to get a divorce without worry.

The concept of an online divorce has changed everything. Not only is it cheap and quick, it has helped a technologically backward society realize the importance of implementing technology for local and state administration.

With the growing number of firms in the country that offer such a facility, the rate of divorce in India has also risen. Most of the consulting work of these firms is in metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi, where the rate of couples separating has risen steeply.

This service is known to be helpful in reducing the paper work that needs to be done by a couple. The people who represent the spouses are in fact lawyers themselves, who provide the option of kick starting the often long and tedious procedure remotely. The reason why a growing number of people prefer these services is that it is quite inexpensive when compared to the exorbitant rates that Indian lawyers demand.

Initially both the husband and wife should try to settle their disputes involving subjects like the sharing of assets, custody of child, etc. Once this is done, they can search for the best online divorce consultancy, and communicate their specific requirements.

After ones registers with them and provides all the information, the firm’s lawyers take care of all the procedures on behalf of the couple. They also need additional details about the relationship, like the number of people in the family, place and date of marriage, the problem with the spouse, etc. Following the collection of information, it is the responsibility of the firm to follow up and contact the couple when need be.

India has a very few divorce firms that offer such services. Most of them are based in urban cities, given the ever-increasing rate of divorce there. Some of these online divorce firms in India also provide counselling to its clients.

The Divorce Checklist

When suddenly faced with the prospect of divorce, you may feel overwhelmed with many unanswered questions – Who will the children live with? Will I pay/receive child support? How does my divorce affect my tax filing and status? Can I continue to be on my spouse’s health insurance after the divorce? Will I lose the marital home in this divorce? My spouse has stopped paying (fill in the blank), how will this affect my credit? Who will have to pay the credit card debt? What happens to the retirement accounts, pension, life insurance annuities? What things do I get to keep as my own property?

Here’s a list that you can use to help you organize your thoughts and get through this:

Before signing any marital settlement, seek an independent tax advisor. Most divorce attorneys, myself included, are not tax experts. A tax advisor will be able to counsel you on the tax consequences of dividing certain assets and property, paying/receiving alimony

Attorneys fees and costs. Who is going to pay? Go over the rules in your area about attorneys fees with your attorney

Child Custody and Support – Sharing the time and responsibility of raising the children, where and with whom the child will live, child support, vacations, transportation between parents, education, extracurricular activities, clothing and the childrens’ personal effects. Parents need to work on solving these issues together in order to foster stability, safety, and emotional health and well being for their children.

Marital home. Is one spouse going to buy out the other? Should the home be listed for sale to a third party? Do you need to refinance or do a short sale? Should one spouse stay in the home until the children are grown? Divorcing parties need to agree, or a judge will decide this issue for you. It is the same for any other real estate investment property, time shares, vacation homes, rental income.

Personal property – who gets what? Make a list of all the things that you think you and your spouse need to divide up, where the things came from – a wedding gift from Aunt Sally, your mother’s china, a purchase during the marriage- and give it to your lawyer with a wish list of what you’d like to keep after the divorce.

Gifts between spouses – the “big ticket” items like your engagement ring, the big screen TV for husband’s birthday, the DVD player for Christmas – they can technically be “marital property” that you and your spouse are entitled to share – these should be divided up fairly, remembering that you gave that gift as just that, a gift!

The family pet – even though we treat them as members of the family, your dogs, cats and other domesticated creatures are property, and can be divided up like the rest of your things.

Joint accounts such as bank accounts, credit cards, car insurance, cell phone accounts, utility accounts, life insurance “cash values”, these all need to be separated. Discuss the timing with your attorney.

Debts such as mortgages, lines of credit, car loans, credit cards, income taxes, personal loans from family members – these debts need to be divided up between the parties, so you should make every effort to have an accurate list of these debts, the date they were incurred, the purpose of the debt, the original balance, the outstanding balance, and whether or not the payments are current or delinquent, for your attorney.

Has your spouse spent money and rang up debt, in order to satisfy an alcohol/drug habit, a gambling problem, a shopping addiction, or spent money on a paramour? This is known as dissipation of marital assets, and is a serious issue affecting your property rights. Consult with your attorney.

Alimony, maintenance, spousal support – in New York it is at the discretion of the Judge, so talk with your attorney about the current state of the law in your jurisdiction and how it may be applied to your divorce situation. Health insurance – probably the one of the most important issues that needs to be solved with the help of your attorney. The financial consequences of not making proper arrangements for you health insurance can last a lifetime.

Relocation with children. Often times a spouse would like to relocate with the children to be closer to their family, as a result of better job opportunities, or to follow a new paramour. This causes many custody disputes to land in Court – if the parents cannot decide, it is often left to a judge’s decision. If relocation is a possibility in your case for either you or your spouse, you should bring this up with your attorney.

Name change…usually the wife has the option of restoring her former name during divorce proceedings.

Cars, boats, trucks, tools, equipment, computers. You and your spouse are in a better position to know how to fairly divide these items between you than a stranger – such as the judge or your lawyers.

The business or businesses. If formed or expanded during the marriage, a business can be subject to division of property, so consult with your attorney.

In this internet age, many people use email, social networking sites, online dating services, photo and video publishing websites, and other public forums to express themselves. This information can be used in a divorce proceeding, so be careful what you put out there!

Friends and family can have well intentioned opinions on how you should handle your divorce and your soon-to-be ex…sometimes this advice is good, oftentimes it can be bad. Do try to follow the advice of your experts such as lawyers, CPAs, counselors, therapists and psychologists, doctors, financial planners and the like. That’s what you pay us for!