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Do I have enough money to divorce?

by | May 3, 2024 | Divorce |

For many people getting divorced, one of the most important factors they consider is ensuring that assets they share are fairly distributed. Additionally, each party is also motivated to ensure assets belonging to each party remain in that party’s possession. Some of the biggest conflicts can come from disputes over the assets comprising the marital estate, around a pension that the primary earner in the household is working toward, or any additional nest eggs that the couple created when they were happily married.

What happens when people who don’t have many assets want to get divorced? They still deserve the fierce, compassionate representation we promise at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance. Here at our office, we are always mindful that we don’t want the cost of a divorce to deplete them of what assets they do have.

We learned about a number of interesting ideas to pass along from a recent Advanced Family Law seminar on what Wharton-based lawyer Amy Rod dubbed a “low-net-worth divorce.” This term is a play on the term “high-net-worth divorce,” which is used in family law circles to describe divorces often complicated by financial matters germane to wealthy couples.

One of the biggest points she makes in the presentation is to focus on the finish line. The goal of every divorce is to have a workable Final Decree of Divorce, which will be the guiding court order. She says, “Instead of making written proposals, drafting a decree as soon as possible can save time and work. First, the attorney’s own client has an opportunity to review and ask questions about the terms and language in the decree immediately. This can keep the case on track without a delay between the agreement in principle and the drafting of the decree. If the parties are working from the end product, they can avoid misunderstandings between the negotiations and the final draft of the order.”

Some law offices might offer what’s called “limited scope representation” for clients who don’t have the resources to pay for a full-blown divorce litigation, though in our experience, it’s hard to offer something like that because every divorce is different. A lawyer may take a client on for what appears to be a “limited scope” case, but upon learning the details, it’s actually more complicated than it originally seems to be.

However, if a couple is in agreement about how to split assets and debts (and how to split parenting time if the couple has children), they might just need a lawyer to draft the requisite documents and present them to the court. It’s still a good idea for each party to have counsel, but going that route will keep costs down and still allow each of the people divorcing to understand what they’re agreeing to in the decree.

It’s also worth noting that Rod advised lawyers working with couples to “put the client to work.” When people getting divorced get all their financial paperwork together and present it to their attorneys, that’s a big step toward making the divorce go more smoothly and making it less expensive. When a law office has to check with a client on the status of promised paperwork or other information, it eventually adds up in legal fees.

It might help to picture a meter running every time you get on the phone with your lawyer, and be mindful of that time on the phone. Also keep in mind that if a paralegal or someone other than a lawyer at the office can handle your matter, it will cost less than reaching out to the lawyer directly. And for a number of offices, if you can put your request or query into an email instead of a call, especially if you can bundle a few together rather than making individual calls for each, that will also result in a lower legal bill.

Everyone deserves good legal representation in a divorce, but it really is crucial to determine what’s best for you in your situation and keep focus on that throughout the process. Being focused on the result rather than being focused on the fight is not only more productive in the long run, but also sets you up for a quicker and less expensive path to settling your divorce.