Advice for Getting the Cheapest Divorce Possible
"How can I get the cheapest divorce possible?"
I get a lot of questions about how to get the cheapest divorce possible, and for good reason: The average cost of divorce in California is $27,000 per person. That's insane!
At Hello Divorce, we're proud that we've managed to lower the average cost of divorce for our users to just $1,500.
We've done that by speeding up the paperwork process through our Divorce Navigator app, which helps you complete all of your California divorce paperwork online through a guided series of questions. Save your work as you go, and work at your own pace. When you're done, the click of a button lets you print your official California divorce paperwork and our easy-to-follow instructions for how to file.
Don't pay a lawyer for the things you can do yourself
Most lawyers have no incentive to help you speed through the divorce process because a quick, cheap divorce only means less money on the table for them. You can save a lot by being judicious about when and how you work with an attorney.
You don't need a lawyer to fill out your divorce paperwork. You can save quite a bit by completing that on your own and asking your lawyer or a paralegal (even cheaper) to review and confirm everything looks correct before you file. In fact, before you even start working with a lawyer, make sure to ask whether they offer "unbundled services." These are a la carte services you can pick and choose from as you wish as opposed to a hefty monthly retainer.
We offer a wide range of transparent, flat-rate services: document review, child and spousal support calculation, mediation, legal or litigation coaching, trial briefs, child support mediation, and more. Prices are all flat-rate so you know exactly how much you'll be paying and what you'll get in return. See the full list of our services here.
Ask your ex to cover your legal fees
The court can award fees that are "reasonably necessary" to properly litigate or negotiate a divorce. "Need-based" fees can be requested at any point during your divorce. The judge will look at both your need and your ex's need for funds and ability to pay. Even if both spouses are well-off, the court can award fees if one spouse has significantly more income, assets, or liquidity.
A word of caution: This isn't an easy process. But, it could be worth the time and save you money if the judge rules in your favor.
Consider the tax implications of divorce.
Beth Logan, an Enrolled Agent with Kozlog Tax Advisers, recommends weighing the tax implications when it comes to decisions around separating marital assets. She explains that different assets have different tax implications:
"A taxpayer in a lower bracket may pay no tax on the gain of a long-term capital asset, while a high-income earner could pay as much as 20 percent. Another asset, like a home, may have no tax implication for either spouse. Therefore, giving the lower-taxed spouse the taxable assets and the higher-taxed spouse the untaxed assets will result in more after-tax value for both. Understanding the after-tax value of each asset to each spouse can help a couple save on taxes."
Use your divorce lawyer's time wisely
The emails and phone calls you make to your lawyer add up. So, don't email questions when they pop up. Instead, keep a draft open and send one email once a week at most, and only if you truly need to. You might even find you are able to get the answers you need on your own. (To state the obvious: The articles and resources on Hello Divorce are a treasure trove of information, so search our site first!) Working with a paralegal or a legal document assistant when you have paperwork or questions about paperwork can save you money.
Use your time wisely, too
When your lawyer asks you to do something, do it. "If your attorney is asking you to create a budget, to meet with an accountant, or to have the home appraised, it is probably for good reason, says Melissa Fecak, founder of South Jersey Divorce Solutions. "If you then appear at your lawyer's office or in court unprepared, you will have wasted attorney's fees and time. (You probably had to take off of work, so you are losing money there, too.) You may even be subject to sanctions or other financial ramifications.
"It also costs you almost nothing to collect last year's credit card statements or bank statements. If your attorney has to gather them and go through them, you are paying for his or her time."
As lovely as your lawyer may be, remember: They're there to work for you, not to be your friend.
"One of the things I always try to impress upon clients is that I am not a therapist. I understand and feel for them in this difficult time. I truly do care about their feelings and needs. However, every time a client calls me to complain about their spouse costs them money," said Ms. Fecak.
She adds, "If they have a question about their case, custody, support – any legal issue – they should call me. We will discuss the question. But if they just need to vent or want to complain about their soon-to-be-ex-spouse, it is less expensive and more helpful to contact a therapist. Like most attorneys, I can happily refer my clients to several counselors and therapists who will be happy to help them deal with the emotional issues."
You got this
At the end of the day, getting the cheapest divorce possible depends on your ability to track down documentation on your own and commit to educating yourself as much as possible about the divorce process.
Have Questions About Divorce? Don't Know Where to Start?