Not all separations require you to hire divorce lawyers. However, legal support is your only option if you cannot communicate effectively and reach agreements with your ex.
And yes, divorce lawyers are expensive. Even more so if your case ends up in the family court. Be sure to avoid this at all costs.
But there are ways to stretch your money further during your legal proceedings so you have more in the bank to start your new life as a single parent.
Here are some simple ways to make sure you get the most for your money from your divorce lawyers, because why pay a cent more than you have to?
Further reading: 9 Places to get free legal support in Australia.
Tell your lawyer if you have a set budget
Be sure to establish your financial limitations with your lawyer. Yes, you may know your chosen attorney's hourly rate, but make sure they understand how much you can pay.
You've found a good divorce lawyer if they have set fees with no scary extras and acceptable, no-interest payment plans.
Remember that you have other things to worry about financially. Perhaps a new apartment or car, or you may need to go on that one holiday to deal with divorce stress.
Look at your finances to figure out how much money and how many hours you can afford for your divorce proceedings, and let your lawyer know.
Limit your contact with your lawyer
You might feel very relieved to have found a good divorce lawyer. Someone to fight your corner and take an interest. It may even feel like you have a new best friend, someone to share every deal of your separation with, as and when it happens.
Don't do this!
Whether on the loo or staring at the ceiling wide awake at night overwhelmed by divorce-related thoughts, refrain from texting or calling your lawyer whenever you have a question.
Note: Your lawyer will charge you every time you make contact. And this, as you can imagine, will rack up costs.
Instead, grab your phone, open your Notes app, and add it to a list of questions and requests you want to address in your next appointment. Make every minute and hour in contact with your lawyer count.
Do what you can yourself
A large part of a separation is clerical work. Things like finding documents, certificates, confirming dates, working out finances etc. Much of this you can do yourself for free instead of paying a divorce lawyer a high price for basic admin services.
At each stage, check with your lawyer what needs to be done and ascertain whether or not you can do it independently. It will save you money and empower you throughout your separation to know you played an effective part in the outcome.
Lower the conflict
Separation, especially with kids involved, is a messy business and even the most amicable divorce comes with some level of conflict. If you are hiring divorce lawyers, this suggests that you and your ex are struggling to reach agreements.
But did you know that each disagreement you cannot resolve between yourselves, which ends up with your lawyers, will cost you big time?
Instead of going the turbulent route and adding another expensive hour to your bill, as I have mentioned before, add your demands to your list of questions and issues to discuss in one sitting with your divorce lawyer at your next appointment. Or, try and resolve some of the easier issues yourselves and notify your respective lawyers of the agreements you have reached.
Be 100% honest with your divorce lawyer
Remember, that your lawyer is dealing with facts. Such as when you separated, your current asset pool, your living circumstances and your children.
Ensure you are completely honest with your divorce lawyer from the get-go. Not only is lying or not disclosing certain information illegal, but the truth will come out, which will delay your legal proceeding, costing you more.
The same goes for your ex-partner too. If they provide non-factual information, flag it immediately so your lawyer can push for the truth.
Playing games with the truth from either party in a property settlement will rack up lawyer bills unnecessarily.
Rant to your therapist, not your lawyer
Your lawyer does not need to know how bad the sex got during the last two years of your marriage or how awful your ex's tastes in clothes and music are.
As callous as it sounds, the only personal details your lawyer needs to know are things that will help them negotiate the best possible situation to divide your property and the most beneficial custody arrangement for you and the kids.
You are being billed for every minute you spend venting to your lawyer. That money will be better spent on therapy where your grief, trauma, and stress can be appropriately processed.
Your divorce lawyer has heard it all. They may be sympathetic, but that's only because you are a client whom they want to feel taken care of.
Avoid the family court
Not all family legal proceedings require a day or more court. Most are settled out of court unless the case is really complex or has safety issues.
Any divorce lawyer worth their salt will prioritise you avoiding court at all costs (excuse the pun). Going to a family court is expensive, stressful, and often extraordinarily lengthy and unpleasant.
If you feel your family lawyer is pushing you towards the court option, put the breaks on and ask how to resolve matters more directly instead. If court is inevitable, you could consider self-representation, which means your divorce lawyer will not be there to represent you on the day at a colossal cost and you will talk for yourself.
Not only is court costly, but it takes essential decisions around finances and childcare out of your hands. They will be decided by a judge who knows very little about your personal circumstances and the best forward for you and, more importantly, your children.