Divorce is hard on your heart, and on your pocketbook. In 2019, the average divorce cost $15,000 nationally, and more in New Jersey. This doesn’t factor in associated costs such as securing new housing, establishing new insurance policies, and self-care such as therapy.
Where do these costs come from? A litigated divorce case racks up hours of attorney fees, court filings, custody evaluation, and more.
However, there are ways to limit the toll divorce takes on your finances. Take these six steps to save money on divorce costs and set yourself up for a financially stable single life.
1. Get organized
Even before you file for divorce, one of the best things that you can do is start organizing. Take an inventory of your property. Collect your financial documents such as statements for your assets (bank accounts, retirement funds, investment accounts) and liabilities (mortgages, home equity lines of credit, credit cards, student loans, car loans), insurance policies, wills, and lists of personal property.
Collect income documentation for yourself and your spouse such as your most recent tax returns, W-2s, and most recent pay stubs.
Having these documents prepared will mean your attorney will be able to review them efficiently, while making sure they have all the necessary information.
Bonus: Starting the divorce organized will help clarify your life and financial goals for afterward.
2. Know what your attorney can help you with
Your attorney can help you with many things: Understanding court processes and procedures, preparing documents, and communicating with your ex and their attorney in a productive manner.
Moreover, your attorney should care about you as a person, not just your case, and because they’re closely acquainted with your case, they can often refer you to other resources. From therapists, home assessors to financial advisors, attorneys often have a wealth of connections they can present you with.
3. Choose your battles
Is your spouse an automobile aficionado, but you’ve been happy tooling around in your 10-year old sedan? Now isn’t the time to stake a claim to their beloved car. The same goes for the house, mementos, and more.
Assess what your priorities are and focus on them. Fighting for the sake of fighting will prolong proceedings and increase your overall stress (and that of your children). It can also put you in a financial bind after the divorce has concluded, saddling you with debt from paying legal expenses that you may not be able to manage.
4. Take care of shared debt
While it won’t save you money during the divorce, this step is important for your financial health afterward. While no one relishes having debit in the first place, it’s especially important to pay down – even better, pay off – any shared debt before your divorce gets rolling.
Creditors don’t care if you’re getting a divorce. They just want the bills paid and if your ex can’t hold up their end of a payment, your credit score may suffer.
So if you can avoid the problem in the first place, all the better. What’s more, you’ll appreciate starting your new life without financial baggage.
5. Consider a method to resolve without going to Court
Divorces can be extremely expensive, especially if you have to go through the courts. It may be necessary in some cases, but many issues in a divorce can be resolved in other ways, often called “alternative dispute resolution” methods.
Mediation, collaborative divorce, and arbitration are all ways to resolve a divorce that allow for more control and less stress without racking up unnecessary legal fees. As long as you and your spouse are willing to work together a little and compromise, you can both save thousands.
Divorce doesn’t have to cost you everything. By staying organized, focused, and strategic about how you proceed, and by hiring an attorney who knows how to use these methods and is dedicated to keeping you out of court, you can save money and put yourself in a strong position for the future, both emotionally and financially.