Illinois Divorce and Family Law Weblog

Helping You and Your Family get through DivorceSM.
Weblog of DuPage County Attorney Raiford D. Palmer, focusing on divorce and family law.
(Copyright© 2005-2008 by Raiford D. Palmer. All rights reserved.) This blog is for advertising only and the contents are not legal advice.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Save Money in Divorce - Do's

Got your attention now, right? After handling many cases in our firm, we see a pattern of behavior that dramatically alters the cost of a divorce case, for attorney's fees, expenses, and even the final outcome. Even the simplest divorce costs money, but you can control your expenses to some extent. Here are some simple do's:


1. Get your complete financial picture as organized as possible before meeting your lawyer, preferably before the initial meeting. Get copies of tax returns (last three years); bank statements (at least current year); pay stubs (probably current year is fine); current loan statements, credit card statements, and any other long-term bills. Get a handle on your expenses (what do you spend for cable, gas, electric, etc. each month)? Also we need current brokerage and investment account statements, as well as a current statement about any pensions or 401(k)s. Basically you will need a documented picture of your financial situation. If your spouse normally handles "the money," try to get copies of this information before a divorce begins. This can save you a lot of grief later. Digging up additional bills and expenses on the day your case is scheduled to be settled is a recipe for high legal fees and aggravation on everyone's part.

2. Use your support structure to talk about the divorce. Your parents, friends, counselor, psychiatrist are better able (and cheaper) to talk with you about your emotions and the troubles you are going through. We are more than willing to talk about your problems, but we have to bill you for our time. If it is a problem we can resolve legally, please do not hesitate to call. If it is just that the spouse is aggravating you, you are probably wasting your money by calling us.

3. Before you call your lawyer, ask yourself: "Will a phone call or letter to my spouse's lawyer or court order fix this problem?" Then ask yourself: "Will the expense involved in the letter or in obtaining the order be worth it?" Note that obtaining any court order easily costs several hundred dollars as a baseline, sometimes substantially more. Believe me, we want to help and we certainly don't mind making money working for you. But we want to keep our eye on the ultimate goal in your case--getting your divorce with the best result for you and your children, as quickly and cheaply as possible.

4. Keep your eye on the target. It is very easy to get distracted and engaged in a battle with your spouse, and to try to "fight" through your attorney. A good divorce lawyer discourages this as it is expensive and usually not productive. Again see No. 3 above. Remember, orders we can obtain on a temporary basis will not typically affect the outcome of the case. They can be very useful to obtain temporary child support, temporary visitation, et cetera. Orders during the case ("temporary" or "interim" orders) are not useful to keep your spouse from verbally abusing you however, or to make your spouse stop coming home drunk. Unfortunately, some clients (and their lawyers) sometimes lose sight of the ultimate goal in these cases (getting a divorce) and instead get engaged in a cycle of small (and costly) battles.

5. Try to agree in advance on the big things with your spouse. Discuss the major issues -- the assets, debt, kids, in general. Try to discuss what you both want in the case. If there are disputed issues, note them and just move on to the next issue--don't get bogged down arguing over the dispute now. The key is to identify the points where you agree and disagree early on. You will be able to tell your divorce lawyer more information about your goals and those of your spouse as a result, and you may find you agree on most issues.

6. Call us if you are in the Chicago area (or outside counties including DuPage, Kane, Lake, Will, McHenry, and need a divorce lawyer. We can be reached at 630.434.0400 Ext. 165 and we are here from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. You can email us via our website, Momkus McCluskey.