Every divorce involves unique situations and complexities. We have found one commonality among our clients, however, and that is the desire to keep attorney fees and expenses from spiraling out of control. With that goal in mind, we have a few money saving tips to help you keep the costs associated with your divorce at a minimum. If you take a practical approach to reducing costs at each step in the divorce, you will enjoy significant savings over the entire process. Tip #1. Start your divorce education today. You need to educate yourself on the family law issues that are relevant to your circumstances. That knowledge will manifest itself in your improved efficiency, both in discussions with your attorney and in negotiations with your spouse. You don't need to prepare for certification as a family law specialist, but you do need a practical knowledge base of routine domestic relations issues. If you have children, for example, you need to learn what is involved with child custody, parenting time, and child support. Or perhaps you are a business owner and need to know how a division of community assets and debts will affect your company. When preparing for divorce, you need to do your homework. Set aside an hour each day to learn about an aspect of family law, such as the division of community property in divorce. Once you've studied the general concepts and are familiar with the terminology, you will grasp the legalities that your attorney needs to convey to you more quickly. The faster you catch on to the issues your attorney is presenting to you, the less you'll pay in attorney fees and the more informed your decisions will be. Tip #2. Avoid litigation to resolve disputed issues. Litigation is a very expensive method for resolving disputed issues in a divorce, or in any family law matter. Therefore, if you hope to save money, avoid litigation at every opportunity. And by all means, never attempt to use litigation as a way of punishing your spouse. There are many alternatives to litigation. Whenever possible, agreeing to alternative dispute resolution methods (negotiation, mediation, ADR settlement conferences) to resolve as many disputes as possible, if not all of them, will reduce your attorney's hours and save you money. Once you've winnowed your list of issues down to those that simply cannot be resolved, those are the matters presented to the Court to decide with finality. Tip #3. When you and your spouse concur on something, write down that agreement. When you and your spouse come to an agreement on an issue (for example, who will take which vehicle), then write it down. That is one less issue to be resolved through negotiation, mediation, or litigation. You may actually find that you and your spouse are in agreement on a fair number of the major decisions that must be made. Tip #4. Make sure the attorney's fee arrangement is reasonable before you make a final hiring decision. You need a lawyer who tells you upfront what the fees will be. Although attorneys are not clairvoyant, they should anticipate the proceedings and how many attorney hours will be involved at each step. The attorney's billable rate must be discussed at the initial consultation, otherwise you'll have no idea what costs to expect. You need to know how you will be billed, how much of a retainer fee is required, whether different services have different rates, and the like, so that you can budget accordingly. What you definitely do not need is an attorney who routinely delays your case and drags things out. That dilatory approach to law and procedure will cost you more money and add to your stress level. You deserve nothing less than efficiency and proficiency from your attorney. Tip #5. Apply a cost-benefit analysis to every issue. The adage "choose your battles wisely" has application in divorce. Not every issue is worth fighting over, so be practical and selective about what you want to spend your attorney dollars on. As challenging as it may be at times, do not allow your emotions and frustrations to obscure your rational thinking. When you look at every issue from a cost-benefit perspective, you can't help but stay focused on getting the divorce finished and done with. If you had to choose, would you prefer to pay your attorney to negotiate a used-microwave oven with your spouse's attorney? Or would you prefer to pay your attorney to negotiate spousal support? Which is really more important? This example may seem silly to you, but people do get caught up in their emotions and what they perceive to be a fairness issue. When it comes to negotiations, focus on the important issues and let the little things, however frustrating, go by the wayside. Tip #6. You can save money and help your attorney by doing a lot of the basic work yourself. The time and effort you put into being fully prepared for your attorney will save you money. When your attorney asks for photocopies of all of your financial accounts, be thorough and provide complete copies. You want your attorney to be businesslike and efficient, you should be the same. Utilize your attorney's time, don't waste it. You won't need to speak directly with your attorney when your paralegal has the information for you. And no matter which member of your legal team is on the telephone, keep your conversations brief and to the point. When you have a conference scheduled with your attorney, be fully prepared in advance. When in negotiations, take reasonable positions. Always keep in mind the need to steer clear of litigation whenever possible. Remember, time is money, and it's your money that we're talking about. A divorce can be quite economical, especially if the spouses are cooperative with each other. Negotiation and mediation may be effective methods of addressing many issues in the divorce and avoid litigation. At the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart, we understand that our clients are concerned about the cost of divorce. With cost-savings in mind, our family law attorneys will work with you in an efficient manner, while protecting your best interests, both emotionally and financially. Resource: Arizona Judicial Branch: Court Filing Fees http://azcourts.gov/Default.aspx?alias=azcourts.gov/courtfilingfees
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