Many couples make the divorce process far more expensive than it needs to be. If you're involved in a high-conflict litigated divorce in which you're contacting your attorney daily on every matter, large and small, you can expect hefty bills. Some people assume their estranged spouse will be ordered to pay the legal bills. That can be an expensive assumption.
Of course, you should seek experienced legal guidance when divorcing. However, if you and your spouse can work out your agreements with the assistance of your attorneys via a collaborative divorce, mediation, arbitration or alternative dispute resolution, you can minimize the cost. Perhaps more importantly, it's easier to emerge from the process with an amicable relationship. That's particularly important if you're going to be co-parenting.
Another way to cut down on your legal bills is to work towards a fair division of assets. Accept that you're likely not going to get everything you want, and focus on what's important to you. When spouses try to get back at each other by fighting over everything, they only end up spending money that could be used to start their new lives. As one attorney says, "I've seen parties to a divorce make the same mistake over and over…fixating on what they are entitled to."
Getting sound financial and tax advice during the process can also save you money in the long run, even if it costs you more upfront to hire professionals. For example, many people fight to keep the family home for emotional reasons without realizing that it's not an expense they can afford on their own. It's also essential to understand the true value of assets like retirement accounts as you determine how you and your spouse will divide them and what the tax implications are for the assets you walk away with.
Divorcing people also waste a lot of money by becoming "emotional spenders." They may shower their kids with expensive toys and gadgets out of guilt. They may self-soothe by splurging on clothes and even vacations and cars -- especially if they're using marital assets like a joint credit card. That's not wise from a legal or financial perspective.
There are multiple alternatives to a litigated divorce, as we've noted. If you and your spouse can reach resolutions you can both live with using one of those alternatives, you can save yourselves considerable money, time and stress.