Keeping Divorce Finances in Check

Although many couples create a budget for divorce, divorce finances can quickly spiral out of control due to unresolved conflict and steep attorney fees. Your state may also have specific laws that lengthen the divorce process and cost you money. You can’t control every aspect of your divorce, but by taking advantage of what you can control, you can work to keep costs low and keep your finances in check.

Separate Your Joint Accounts

If you and your spouse have joint accounts, both of you have full access to the funds they contain. Regardless of how cordial your spouse is about the divorce, separating your accounts before you begin can save you from discovering that you have no more money left in the checking account or that your soon-to-be ex ran up a high credit card bill that you can’t afford to pay. The desire to keep the cost of your divorce in check is of little value to you if you don’t take care to protect your finances.

Communicate with Your Spouse

Don’t think that you have to wait to negotiate the terms of the divorce until both of your attorneys are present or that the judge simply awards assets to one party or the other. You have the right to attempt to work with your spouse to come to a peaceful agreement concerning who should take what.

Even if you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye, sitting down together and discussing your belongings is free for both of you. Allowing your attorneys to mediate and haggle over your marital assets, however, can cost you hundreds of dollars. If you still have a good relationship with your spouse, divorcing without hiring attorneys can save you from the most expensive aspect of divorce--attorney fees.

Prepare for the Separation

Some states require couples to be legally separated for a specific amount of time before a court will grant a divorce. The separation period varies depending on the state and can last as long as a year. During this period, you and your spouse will go from supporting one household to supporting two. Naturally, this can strain the finances of both of you.

You can save money on the separation by finding a friend, family member or roommate to move in and share the cost of living after your spouse moves out or after you find a new place to live.

Don’t Send Your Attorney Hunting for Information

If you opt to hire an attorney, provide him with as much information as you can up front. If there are documents your attorney needs that you don’t currently have, get them. Rest assured, if your divorce attorney has to drive up to the courthouse and comb through public records to find a copy of your mortgage deed, you’ll pay handsomely for it.

Another hidden fee in divorce is the cost to do simple things such as telephone lenders or make copies. To avoid these fees, ask your attorney what information he needs from your lenders and offer to get statements in writing detailing anything your attorney needs to know. Make two copies of all original documents your attorney wants to review. If your state has full disclosure laws, this prevents your attorney from needing to make an extra copy--and charge you for it--to send to your spouse’s attorney.

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