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Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
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Committing to honest discussion may lower the cost of divorce

Texas residents who are ending their marriages often have trouble discussing important divorce issues with their ex-spouses, but some family law experts say that making the effort to do so could result in lower legal bills. In many cases, divorcing couples can easily accumulate thousands of dollars in legal fees and other expenses over the weeks or months that contentious negotiations or court proceedings might last.

Attorneys must often speak on behalf of each client and negotiate on minor details when their clients cannot resolve these issues with honest, civil discussions. Couples who lie about their assets or income also tend to have higher legal bills because it draws out the discovery process. It has been noted that couples who commit to rational discussions could have their divorces finalized within weeks and cut out many of the billable hours that result in high legal fees.

Couples who prepare financial statements detailing their incomes, assets, debts and living expenses avert the need for discovery. Identifying what issues would benefit most from negotiation, such as child support, custody and visitation, can help couples avert arguments over less important matters. Being flexible on minor parenting or financial problems can expedite discussions.

Some divorcing couples choose to work with mediators, but for mediation to be successful, both parties must feel comfortable speaking on their own behalf. While the lower cost of mediation may be attractive, the agreements resulting from mediation may be unfair to one party if the other hides assets or intimidates their ex-spouse. Family law attorneys can advise clients on steps they can take toward an affordable divorce by resolving their minor divorce legal issues together while still representing them in discussions involving more contentious areas such as alimony or child custody.

Source: CNBC, "How to get divorced without breaking the bank", Susan Caminiti, Feb. 9, 2015

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