Calm thoughts before the storm
You should think of your divorce as something that you are going to live with for the rest of your life. It’s not just about getting that piece of paper. It is about your quality of life after divorce, how you get on with your children and whether or not you maintain relationships with your spouse, their family and mutual friends.
I appreciate that you may think that you can’t afford professional help but actually can you afford not to?
I remember, years ago, just before the financial crash of 2008, I was in the process of re- mortgaging my house. Lawyers are notorious for being know it alls and I was no different. I was of the view that I could find the best mortgage deal on my own. After all, I was intelligent, had a bit of financial knowledge and had done it before…..
I was recommended to a mortgage broker by a colleague and I reluctantly went to see him. I didn’t think he could tell me anything I didn’t know. I was wrong. There was a deal with a ridiculous rate of interest that was about to expire in a couple of days. I signed up for it on the brokers advice. His fee was £300. It turned out to be the best £300 I have ever spent. From that day forward, I have always paid for professional advice. That £300 has probably saved me about £20,000 over the past 10 years.
It is exactly the same with divorce. Add to the mix, the fact that you may be all over the place emotionally, trying to hold down a job, worry about your children and worry about your future, and it is pretty obvious that you are not in the best place to attempt to negotiate a settlement on your own. I would recommend that you always seek advice. Not just legal advice but financial advice and support from a therapist if you feel you need it.
That said, there are ways you can minimise costs:
Do engage the right professionals
Lawyers have limitations. We can’t give financial advice and aren’t qualified or indeed as knowledgeable as we think!
Don’t use your lawyer as a therapist. Lawyers aren’t trained to deal with your emotions and our hourly rate is generally a lot more than that of a skilled therapist.
Do your homework. Gather as much financial information as you can. Don’t pay your lawyer to do this for you unless you really are stuck or too busy.
Do make sure you read the letter of engagement your lawyer send you. Understand how they charge. Most lawyers charge an hourly rate. They also charge for travel,waiting in court, preparation and other work behind the scenes.
Do be prepared. Use time With your lawyer wisely. Think about what you want to cover in advance of your meeting. Write up a checklist so you don’t forget.
Do speak to your spouse. I always encourage clients to see if they can sort things out themselves with the lawyers assisting them in the background.
Do choose an ADR process such as mediation or collaborative practice.
Do keep out of court if you possibly can. This is where costs can really escalate. Your case will be subject to delays and fundamentally you surrender control of your future to a stranger who will impose a ruling on you that will affect you for the rest of your life.