Keeping Costs Down On Divorce – Part 1: Documentation

Written by on April 28, 2013 in Cost Saving Tips

Divorces are notoriously expensive, but they don’t have to be.   I am not a proponent of “low-cost divorces,” but I do believe in obtaining your divorce at a low-cost.  So, what can you do to keep the cost of your divorce down?  This is the first article in a 5-part series on things that all litigants can do to keep the cost of their divorce down.

Part 1 – Documentation

Make sure you gather all of your important documents before meeting with your divorce attorney.  This can be your first meeting or your 18th meeting, but having the right documentation to hand to your lawyer will not only help your lawyer, but will keep your costs down.  I generally ask my clients to bring in the following documents:
1.    The last 3 years worth of tax returns with the supporting schedules and documents;
2.    The last 3 months worth of paystubs;
3.    The last 3 months worth of mortgage statements;
4.    The most recent property tax statement;
5.    the last 3 months worth of loan statements;
6.    The last 3 months worth of all bank statements and credit card statements;
7.    The last 3 months worth of all retirement and investment account statements;
8.    Copies of vehicle titles;
9.    Copies of appraisals on any real property you may own;
10.    Copies of loan documents;
11.    The last 3 months worth of any other regular bills you have to pay, e.g. utilities, daycare, and healthcare;
12.    Copies of any appraisals on antiques and collectibles you may have;
13.    Copies of all insurance policies; and
14.    Copies of all receipts for uninsured healthcare expenses for the minor children (if applicable).
You can print out most of those documents online.  The 30 minutes you spend printing out statements can save you hundreds in attorney’s fees.  If you don’t have access to some of these documents, try to put together a list of the people that would have them, such as your accountant, financial planner, or real estate agent.
If your case is already in progress, also bring in an extra copy of all your court documents, even those that may appear insignificant, as they may contain important information.  While my office does not charge for photocopies, some law firms do, and you can save money by printing out extra copies of all the documents to give to your attorney.
If child custody and/or visitation are at issue, start tracking the visitation schedule on a calendar and bring a copy of that calendar with you for your lawyer.
Finally, stay organized.  Your life has probably just been thrown into chaos, but staying organized will help you manage the uncertainty and will help keep your legal fees down.  With the right preparation, you can have a low-cost divorce with a high-quality divorce attorney.

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