You think you are happily married when your spouse, out of nowhere, decides to file for a divorce. You are unprepared for this. You know that divorces can be expensive. How will you pay for one?
You may think that a DIY divorce is the best bet. You know how to use the internet to research. It cannot be too hard to handle your own divorce, right?
Wrong! Have you ever been divorced before? Are you aware of all the complexities involved? Do you have children or a significant amount of assets? These elements can make a divorce even more complicated.
That is why you need a lawyer on your side. Divorces are not easy to handle unless you have a significant amount of law experience. Each state has its own laws that apply. If you do not know what you are doing, you could miss out on a significant amount of assets.
Sure, a lawyer can be pricey, but you are paying for experience and skill. You do not want to skimp when it comes to your divorce. There is a lot at stake, so you want to get as much out of it as possible.
Lawyers know the law. They have dealt with numerous divorces like yours, so they know the processes. They know what documents you need to fill out and the timelines for doing so.
If you are getting divorced for the first time, you will likely be highly emotional. Emotions can make you do things you will later regret. In a divorce, finances are involved and you want to be in a good state of mind so you can make the right decisions. You will have to live with the effects of a wrong decision for the rest of your life. Once the divorce is finalized, there is no going back.
While there are technically no winners in a divorce, you want your experience to be as successful as possible. Here are some tips to help as you navigate through your divorce.
Hiring a lawyer is expensive, with the average divorce costing $15,000. However, if you choose mediation, you can potentially pay a lot less. A mediator can help you and your spouse come to agreements on major decisions such as child custody and asset division. By settling these issues outside of court, you can save on court and lawyers’ fees.
Do Not Choose the Most Expensive Lawyer
While the cheapest lawyer may not be the best, the most expensive one may not be the best either. Choose a lawyer based on their personality and experience, not how much they command per hour. You will be dealing with this person for a long time—perhaps a year or longer—so make sure you feel comfortable around this person. You need someone who is the right fit for you, so go with your gut.
Choose Your Battles
If your spouse initiated the divorce, you may be feeling hurt and angry. You may even want to seek revenge. This is not a good idea, however. Fighting with your spouse over trivial issues will only end up being costly in the long run because your lawyer will have to work extra hard to resolve your issues. It also prolongs the divorce process. Therefore, pick your battles and focus on what you really want versus what will anger your spouse.
Plan Purchases Carefully
If you are planning on making a big purchase, such as a new car, do it before you file for divorce. Once you file for divorce, you may be banned from making such a purchase because it affects the amount of assets available. Need a new car? Plan wisely.
Preparation is Key
Do not meet with a lawyer without having any documentation. Your lawyer needs to get an idea of your financial status, and this is only possible with statements detailing your income, assets and debts. Get copies of bank statements, tax returns, paycheck stubs, loan documents, mortgage bills, credit card bills, utility bills, and anything else that shows your finances.
Declare Assets Upfront
This is not the time to hide the fact you have a stash of money hiding in your drawer or a secret vacation home that your spouse does not know about. Make sure to declare all assets when filing for divorce. Not only is hiding assets immoral, but it is also against the law. You will not only lose credibility, but you could be fined as well.
Do Not Depend on Alimony or Child Support
While you may get some financial support from your ex-spouse, do not count on it to pay your bills. If you have not worked in a while, be prepared to update your resume or take some classes to hone your job skills. Unless you are disabled, the court will likely expect you to work, so be prepared to start looking for work before you file for divorce.
Learn More About Finances
If your spouse was the one who took care of the bills and other financial elements of your marriage, you are going to be in for a rude awakening when you are on your own. Your spouse is not going to keep paying your bills, so start learning about finances now. You should know how to make a budget and track your income and expenses. Online classes can help you learn the basics so you are not spending more money than you have.
Seek Legal Help
While it may seem cheaper and easier to handle your divorce yourself, an experienced divorced lawyer knows all the secrets to help you achieve a favorable outcome. Do not settle for less.
Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler has more than 30 years of experience handling divorces and can help you understand your rights in a divorce. His team can guide you so you make the right decisions. Get started today with a phone consultation. Call (954) 346-6464 today.