Will My Divorce Bankrupt Me?
We all know (or have heard of) someone who spent way too much money during their divorce
but it doesn’t have to be that way if you make informed decisions.
We talk to AllynMarie Smedley, Esq., founder of Smedley Law Group, for her perspective on five smart ways to keep costs down during your divorce.
If I talk to my divorce attorney too much, will those frequent conversations run up my costs?
AllynMarie Smedley: A good way to manage your attorney’s fees is to be mindful of the contact you have with your attorney. Most attorneys bill by the hour so every time you call, email or make an in-person appointment with your lawyer it costs money. If the attorney has minimum billing (a minimum amount billed for a particular event, which is common), then each time you reach out to your attorney or she responds to your query, that can cost more money than if you stockpiled all your questions to discuss in a single email, phone call or meeting.
If I don’t want to compromise with my ex during a divorce, can that add to my legal costs?
AS: Failure to compromise in a divorce proceeding will almost always result in your matter going to trial since it’s rare to have someone settle a case where they’re not getting everything they want. If you go to trial, you’re looking at extensive costs that will be incurred in preparing and conducting that trial. Compromising and settling your case will almost always result in a savings, as you’ll cut down on the time needed to bring your matter to a conclusion and you're more likely to end up with a result you can live with.
If I take my spouse to court, will that increase my expenses?
AS: If you take your case to trial, this will absolutely increase your expenses. Taking a case to trial involves significant preparation by the attorney, which includes a review of the entire file, identifying exhibits, meetings with the client, potential witnesses and experts (and the related trial costs associated with those experts), strategy sessions with other attorneys in the practice, drafting trial memorandum and other pleadings, and time spent preparing for direct testimony and cross examination. This can add days of preparation (at up to eight hours or more a day) onto your bill in addition to costs related to copies, expert fees and the like. Many people don’t take the prep costs into consideration when making the decision to move forward with a trial.
In addition, there are motions that may need to be filed in your case; these are requests made to the court for certain specific relief which can relate to a certain need that arises during a case or as the result of someone’s behavior. These also cost money as they require the drafting of submissions to the court explaining your request, preparing supporting documentation and responding to any submissions drafted by the other side. Always approach these events with a mind toward cost/savings to determine if there's a more cost-effective way of dealing with these issues.
Will it cost me more if I dismiss the idea of a do-it-yourself divorce without attorneys?
AS: Not necessarily. I often have clients who come in after a DIY divorce needing to deal with issues that are solely the result of poor drafting or limited agreements that don’t address all of the issues that need to be dealt with in a divorce. When that happens, people can spend as much as a divorce trying to unravel problems that were created as the result of trying to save some money on the front end. In addition, if you aren’t aware of your rights, you could waive any number of things you may be entitled to like alimony or assets that you can’t get back post-judgment. This could potentially cost substantial sums of money down the line.
Is not having a prenuptial agreement a mistake if you have a lot of assets to lose?
AS: Yes. If you come into a relationship with significant premarital assets, in New Jersey those assets could lose their premarital nature if they’re commingled during a marriage. A prenuptial agreement can protect these assets and define the parties’ financial obligations if the marriage were to end. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that these assets are identified and protected in the event of a divorce.
If you need help with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.