As many divorced individuals can attest, going through the separation and divorce process can be grueling, time-consuming and expensive.
There are certain aspects of the process that clients are strongly advised not to do it yourself, especially as it pertains to filing important documents, formulating arguments and generally managing interactions with the Court and the other party. (In fact, when a client attempts to intervene too much, it can be very damaging to a case, depending on the individual situation.)
However, there are certain things that a client can do for him- or herself that will not only save time, it will save money.
Remove the Emotion
I have previously written about how much more quickly and easily most divorce cases would be resolved if both parties would set their emotions aside. Without animosity, resentment, or any of a myriad of other negative emotions that typically swirl around a divorce case, a divorce simply becomes a business transaction. Then, our job is to work out the details.
Get a Pre-Nuptial Agreement
If you’re reading this blog post, chances are good that you’re way past the point of being able to implement a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, but I’ll keep this tip in here in case you ever decide to get re-married or if you can get your spouse to agree to a post-nup. A pre-nuptial agreement, while unpopular, could potentially save you an enormous amount of stress and money should you ever decide to get divorced.
Review Your Own Financial Information
In virtually every case, spouses are required to exchange financial information with the other side. This is so that when it comes time for the Court to determine child support, maintenance and division of assets and debt, everyone’s financial cards are on the table, and a fair decision can be made.
You will be asked to exchange bank and credit card statements and other documentation detailing property ownership, assets and debts, as well as tax returns and retirement account details.
Now, you could feasibly request that your attorney’s team review the other side’s documents to determine how much money is spent in each area (bills, food, entertainment, etc.), but it is far more effective if you do this yourself. Your attorney may not be able to identify some of the questionable expenses and may miss important details that could impact your financial situation for years to come.
For example, I heard about an attorney who was reviewing her client’s bank statements. She nearly missed a recurring charge which she assumed was for a normal living expense; upon further examination, she realized that the recurring charge was for an “online chat” service. Her client spent hundreds of dollars each month video chatting with nude women in Eastern Europe. Knowing that information might be evident to the other side, the attorney was better prepared to address the situation.
That’s an important detail that could potentially impact the Court’s ultimate decision about child support and maintenance, and potentially even the parenting agreement.
Besides this extreme example, most people are able to sort through their spouse’s bank statements in much less time than it would take an attorney, who doesn’t know the day-to-day lifestyle and the potential red flags. You know where your spouse regularly spends money, while your attorney does not.
Most attorneys charge by the hour, and even five hours spent on bank statement review could add up quickly.
Attend Required Events, Classes and Court Dates
You might be surprised to learn how often people going through a divorce neglect to fulfill their obligations related to the divorce. However, the more diligent you are about tracking each action item and fulfilling it, the more effectively your attorney will be able to work, and the more quickly and efficiently your case will be resolved.
Some examples of required classes and events are: mediation sessions, parenting classes, Court attendance, therapy sessions (which may be mandated by the Court) and meetings.
In Colorado, all divorcing couples who are also parents must attend a parenting class at the beginning of the divorce process. The class is intended to educate parents on how their children could potentially be impacted by the divorce (depending on how the parents conduct themselves during the proceedings). Essentially, it is the State’s attempt to help parents understand how critical it is that they protect the children, as much as possible, from any nasty fighting.
Similarly, all divorcing couples are required to attend mediation in Boulder County. The Courts believe that mediation will frequently resolve the issues in a case, even when the parties believe the case cannot be settled. Even if the parties cannot settle all issues, mediation may limit the issues that have to be tried. Mediation will save time, money and be much less emotionally taxing for the family. Each side will generally attend mediation sessions with his or her attorney present.
If your presence is required in Court, you should appear on time and prepared with any information you are requested to bring. Neglecting to arrive at your Court date can have serious long-lasting repercussions.
Therapy Sessions and/or Meetings
In some cases, the Judge may order that one or both parties attend therapy sessions, AA meetings or other kinds of evaluation sessions. If you are ordered to attend any classes/sessions like this, be sure and go. Fulfill your requirements in a thorough and timely manner. If you don’t, your situation could become infinitely more complicated, drawn out and expensive.
Just like in life, if you pay attention to the details of your case, show up on time, and follow through on anything that is required of you, your experience working with the Court system will be much easier and less expensive. Of course, this is not always easy to do, especially in divorce cases where there is much resentment and animosity between the parties, which is why it is so important to have an attorney you trust working with you.
If you are preparing to go through a divorce case, don’t do it alone. It is highly recommended that you seek professional counsel before taking action (or letting the deadline slide).
Call our office at 303-449-1873 to set up a free consultation.