Divorce is a financial landmine, made even worse if your spouse is intentionally dragging out the process. Many have financially broken under the weight of attorney and expert fees coupled with the loss of a partner's income. Having a plan from the get-go for divorcing your spouse without going broke can save your financial future and maybe even your current sanity.
Once the divorce starts, assets and financial responsibilities are divided. Ginita Wall, a divorce financial planner, CPA and author of 150 Ways to Divorce Without Going Broke, suggests taking care of necessities with family funds, before they become assets of the divorce. She suggests fixing your car, making home repairs and stocking up on clothing for you and the kids.
Costs of the Legal Process
A 2011 GoBankingRates.com article pegs the legal costs associated with divorce between $2,000 and tens of thousands of dollars. However, you can bring even the low end of this estimate down by doing it yourself. Most family law court clerks' offices post court-approved divorce forms on their websites, which are often free and come with instructions. States like Florida and California also offer staffed self-help centers that provide help filling out the necessary forms, answer questions about procedure and even provide do-it-yourself seminars. When you handle your divorce yourself, you cut out lawyer fees and the fees of other professionals they tend to rely on, such as investigators, and financial and psychological professionals.
Declaration of Indigency
One legal cost of divorce you may be able to have waived are the court filing fee and service of process fee. The court charges a fee for filing your initial divorce petition. Once you file your petition, it must be served on your spouse, which also involves a small fee. If you can't afford these costs, the family law court clerk or self-help center can give you an application for waiver, sometimes called an affidavit of indigency. Provide the financial information required by the form, present it to the court clerk and receive your decision right then. Existing participation in programs, such as food assistance, may qualify you automatically.
Your spouse may not agree with or support your decision to divorce. But once he understands that divorce is inevitable, he may realize that he is as much at risk of going broke during the process as you are. It is in both your best interests to cooperate with each other to preserve as much of your collective finances as possible. Divorce requires you divide your marital assets and debts, decide whether one of you will pay the other support, and decide residential custody, visitation and support of the children. If you can approach these decisions with a genuine willingness to negotiate, you can avoid legal fees for going to trial and potentially save money.