A divorce checklist and top tips for reducing the legal costs of your divorce

When it comes to getting divorced the costs can quickly add up. This is a problem that many couples face when they want to split up especially when money is an issue. There are no easy answers when it comes to finding ways to reduce the cost of a divorce, especially if the two people involved refuse to talk things through. However if cost is an issue and getting a lower cost split is crucial, then consider these few tips that will help you move forward without breaking the bank.

Talk it out with your spouse

The biggest way to reduce divorce costs is to look for common ground in the deliberation process. Before contacting a lawyer, talk it out. Talk about the process and whether or not an amicable split is possible. Consider mediation if conversation proves tough. If done right, an amicable split can save thousands and thousands of dollars.

The reason being is that you will not have to go into court and argue over certain things. This is especially true in the case of people that have a lot of possessions. If you can itemize splitting up assets and do not need to include a judgment or a settlement you will save money.

Consider a DIY divorce

By splitting things up after a discussion you can ease the burden of the paperwork that will be needed after the fact. The second major way to save money is to look online for a divorce paperwork website. Some states allow people to simply go to the court, file proper paperwork and omit the issue of seeing a judge face to face. Look to see if your state allows this and you could get away with all paperwork filled out and ready to process within a few days. If you rush things and get all your papers in order (within a week) you may get divorced within a month.

Or get a little help…

There are also now several online companies that will file a divorce for you for a very small fee. This can be useful if your divorce is uncontested and reasonably amicable but neither of you are confident in completing the legal documentation yourself. The fees are usually not more than a few hundred dollars however you should note that your state will have separate fees for actually filing the divorce and these will be added to any costs (these fees vary hugely from state to state and even from county to county – from less than $100 to as much as $400).

Or get a lot of help…

If there is no communication, no way of working things out then it’s imperative to look for low cost lawyers and firms that specialize in divorces. You’ll find that there are some that do the whole process, paperwork and more for a flat rate. With the rate of divorce easily eclipsing 50%, it’s not unusual to see a firm doing things for a small fee instead of thousands, especially if things are fairly straight forward. The more complicated things are (the more disagreements) the more legal time you will require and this is when the costs can soar.

If your divorce is not amicable or you have bad feelings about what is going on, perhaps some dishonesty from your spouse, make sure that you met with a professional and get all your questions answered before finalizing anything.

A note about children and custody

Lastly, if you have children and custody issues things get very expensive when there is no communication and either party puts up a fight. If you need to save money and there are children involved you’ll have to be amicable there’s just no two ways about it. 100% amicable divorces are rare, but if you can bite your tongue and make sure that a truce is held even for a short time, money can be saved and a divorce can be finalized swiftly.

A basic divorce checklist

If you’ve never gone through a divorce before you’re probably wondering where to begin with your divorce. Add to this the emotional stress and it’s very hard to concentrate on what needs to be done, collected, declared etc., without having a basic checklist. Of course everyone’s circumstances will differ but here a very basic ideas of what needs to be done and when during your divorce. It also best to get some professional help to make sure you haven’t left any important details out. 

Information and documents

  • Both you and your spouse’s full names (including previous names, married names etc.), date of births and social security numbers
  • All children details, names, dates of births, social security numbers this also includes children from other relationships
  • Marriage certificate including location and date
  • Details of previous divorces, marriages or annulments
  • You may need copies of both spouses birth certificates
  • Proof of where you live
  • Addresses and phone numbers of both spouses
  • Any marriage or prenuptial agreements
  • Addresses and phone numbers of both spouses legal council
  • Both spouses occupations and addresses of both work places
  • Tax returns (how far back depends on different state laws)
  • Proof of income for each spouse
  • All expenses each spouse have to pay (this can be in the form of bills, invoices etc).

Property & finance checklist

This can be the hardest to gather together so it’s best to start with the largest and work your way down to the smallest.

  • Mortgage papers, home deeds and any investments.
  • Jointly held vehicles trucks, cars, boats etc.
  • Bank accounts (both joint and separate) and statements for both going back several months.
  • Household belongings and their values. Other things that don’t have a physical form but need to be included are the following…
  • All insurances life, disability, health owned by each spouse.
  • Any trust funds owned by either spouse.
  • Gifts.
  • Pay-out from employers, pension’s retirement packages etc.
  • Previous judgments and settlements for property, finances etc. As well as working out any property settlements you and your spouse should discuss and do the following….

Who will continue to live in the family home?

  • Put together all mortgage papers for helping with evaluations
  • Bills and expenses for maintenance of the property.
  • Find out the market value price of the property if the family home needs to be sold.
  • Copies of real estate taxes paid on the home.
  • Other properties that need to be looked at and divided.

Children and their maintenance 

To save time and legal expenses its best to discuss and work out arrangements for the following when it comes to your children before you visit your legal counsel…

  • Custody of children, both legal and physical.
  • Any alimony payments.
  • Child support.
  • Health insurance and cobra paperwork.
  • Visitation rights.
  • Any tax deductions for children.

Consider changes to trusts and wills

Finally, although you may want your divorce done and dusted as soon as possible there are some tax ad-vantages of picking the right date for filing your divorce. This is something that needs to be discussed with a tax professional to get the most up to date details and relevant clauses. If this turns out to be an extended period of time, it might be worth considering a legal separation prior to divorce.

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