12 Expert Tips to Ease Divorce Financial Stress

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A lengthy and contentious divorce can be more costly. To save on costs, be realistic about your divorce and compromise when possible.

Sayuri Inoue / Canva Pro

Divorce often carries substantial financial consequences, so it’s crucial to address them alongside the emotional hardships. The most obvious considerations include preparing for divorce costs and exploring available payment solutions. Mishandling these matters can lead to lasting financial consequences.

Planning for divorce costs is especially relevant if you’re the “non-monied” spouse, meaning you weren’t the primary earner and lack the funds to hire a divorce lawyer, at least in the present. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to manage and reduce divorce costs while still securing the assistance you need.

1. Call the court clerk.

You can start the divorce process by calling your county clerk, who can provide the necessary paperwork to initiate your proceedings. They may also direct you to specialized courts for issues such as child custody or domestic abuse.

2. Stay realistic (yet optimistic).

Understand that a lengthy and contentious divorce can be more costly. To save on costs, be realistic about your divorce and compromise when possible.

That said, balancing your willingness to compromise with your commitment to protecting your rights and ensuring your needs (and wants) get met is paramount. A seasoned divorce attorney can provide objective guidance in this regard. Pro tip: Being realistic doesn’t mean you can’t be optimistic about your divorce, too!

3. Rally your troops.

If you can’t cover your initial divorce costs, consider reaching out to family or friends for financial assistance. Borrowing money from a trusted loved one can help you get started, even if you don’t have independent funds to do so on your own.

4. Seek out pro bono groups.

Seek out pro bono legal services offered by organizations like the Legal Aid Society if you can’t afford a divorce attorney. These groups provide free assistance based on financial need and can offer substantial relief for representation costs.

5. Reach out to local law schools.

Many law schools have legal clinics or student-run organizations offering reduced-cost or free services, including divorce services. These groups typically have the oversight of trained attorneys and professors, generally keeping the quality of their services high. While these resources might provide a different level of expertise and attention than an experienced divorce attorney, they can help prepare necessary documents or motions, alleviating divorce costs.

6. Search the internet.

There are many online resources through which you can familiarize yourself with the divorce process. For example, organizations like the American Bar Association offer free general guidelines that can assist you in filing for divorce independently, significantly reducing legal costs.

Online divorce services, too, can help you file for divorce. Nonetheless, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer who can best apprise you of your rights and responsibilities.

7. Consult with your local bar associations.

Local bar associations can provide advice, refer you to affordable legal services, and offer workshops on the divorce process. Organizations like the Women’s Bar Association, for example, help provide specialized support.

8. Request a fee waiver from the court.

If you qualify as low-income, you can reduce court filing fees using what’s known as a fee waiver. To take advantage of these opportunities, submit an application and proof of income to the court. Remember, approval is not guaranteed.

9. Ask your spouse for an advance.

If your spouse is the monied spouse, you can ask them for an advance to cover legal, expert, or support fees during the divorce process. Repayment, known as reallocation, will be calculated later based on various factors, including the parties’ lifestyles and assets.

10. Sell assets.

Consider liquidating assets to cover divorce expenses if you’re short on cash. However, consult a financial professional familiar with divorce cases to assess tax implications or penalties, such as capital gains tax or early withdrawal fees common with retirement accounts.

11. Consider mediation in specific circumstances.

Alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation can be less expensive than litigation. For alternative dispute resolution to be effective, it requires healthy negotiation skills and a commitment by both spouses to reach a compromise, making it unsuitable for cases involving an imbalance of power or domestic violence.

12. Reach out to an experienced divorce lawyer.

If your spouse controls the marital assets, consult a divorce attorney promptly. They can negotiate on your behalf or file a request for access to marital funds through judicial intervention, maximizing your chances of a favorable outcome.

Divorce can be financially and emotionally challenging. But by learning about cost-saving opportunities before initiating the divorce process and engaging them throughout, you can keep your costs low, which in turn will likely alleviate some stress associated with separation. With your divorce costs under control, you can look forward to the time after your divorce and the new life you’re preparing to build.

Note: This post is not intended to serve as legal or mental health advice. Each situation is unique. Please reach out to a local therapist or attorney to address your issues specifically.

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