Saving Dollars & Making Sense of Divorce

Here's how you can part ways without taking the financial plunge

a move unless you understand how your actions impact your future.

Miller initially conducted her research at the library. Today, you can probably get the same information over the Internet. She then referred to Divorce Yourself: The National No-Fault Divorce Kit, which she purchased for $35 from a local stationery store.

“One of the little secrets about divorce is that most people don’t spend a lot of money,” states Borden. He also says there are a lot of assumptions that people make about divorce that just aren’t true. For example, it’s widely believed that you absolutely need a lawyer to get a divorce, but Borden says he doesn’t know of any state that dictates this requirement. In fact, “there are people who get through a divorce without hiring a lawyer, especially if they don’t stand a chance of losing anything,” Long says. If the couple trust each other and don’t have any issues relating to property or children, they don’t necessarily need an attorney. And for those who choose to act on their own behalf, “the chances of getting hurt are relatively small,” Borden adds. “We lawyers are uncomfortable telling people they don’t need us.”

On the other hand, “You shouldn’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” warns Steven Candela, matrimonial and family court practitioner of Mannarino Candela in New York City. He says, “You can pay an attorney $150 for a consultation and they can give you an assessment [of your situation] in five minutes.” Borden advocates using a lawyer as a coach from time to time. This will help you get some of your questions answered and determine whether you feel comfortable handling the divorce yourself. “You can always retain a lawyer later if n
ecessary,” he adds.

If you do choose to hire a lawyer to handle your case, it doesn’t have to break you financially. “Instead of having the lawyer do all of the footwork, tell him that you can walk the paperwork to the court yourself. Be honest with your attorney and tell him that you don’t have a lot of money but you are willing to help. Most lawyers will be open to this,” Long suggests. There is also the process of “unbundling,” or what Long refers to as “supermarket shopping for divorce.” This is where you pay a lawyer for some services but opt to complete others yourself. “Anything that you can do on your own, you shouldn’t pay a lawyer to do it,” Borden advises.

Another time and money saver takes place in the courtroom. Before your case comes up, watch at least one divorce case in progress. “Check with the superior court clerk and ask them when divorce court is in session. Then sit in on divorce proceedings,” Long advises. He says this will give you a chance to see the divorce process in action, assess the atmosphere of the courtroom, learn what the judge will ask for and see how issues which may apply in your case are dealt with.


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