Almost no one lives on half of their income and assets, so most divorcing men and women have to make adjustments to their lifestyle after a divorce, regardless of whether they are in debt or have millions in the bank. One of the most obvious ways to try to separate into two houses with as many financial resources as possible is to minimize the cost of the divorce process. The longer the process takes, the more you are likely paying in professional fees. That being said, it is important to strike the right balance between settling when it is smart and continuing to negotiate to land a larger settlement.
I recently had the privilege of joining Susan Guthrie on her Divorce & Beyond podcast, where we explored the top five strategies to save money in divorce. Having helped hundreds of people through the process, these are the top tips that apply across the board and may be simpler than you would expect.
It is very rare to feel like you have two really great options in divorce. Oftentimes you are making a series of least-worst decisions. It is crucial for you to think through what is most important to you and let as many things fall in the “Let It Go” bucket as practical. Try to focus on a settlement that will honor your and your family’s values.
Prioritization of your needs, wants, and wishes is paramount to getting divorced with the least … [+]
It is also smart to consider what is important to your spouse. While you may not really care, you would be wise to. The truth is that over 95% of divorce cases do not go to trial due to the extreme time and cost. You will likely benefit greatly by working together with your spouse to come to an agreement.
Having laser-focused priorities will help you save time with your attorney, mediator, and other professionals because you will have clarity on what is worth negotiating for, what’s a priority for your spouse, and what can be used as bargaining chips.
Avoid falling into the “divorce fatigue” trap. While it’s challenging to continue negotiations, when one spouse buckles to finalize the process, there is a real risk that the agreement won’t hold up long-term. That means you could wind up back in court again, incurring more time and legal fees, so nothing was saved in the end.
You are the CEO of your divorce, and hiring a great team is invaluable. Interview attorneys and professionals that are aligned with your beliefs, communication preferences, and style. Research who your soon-to-be-ex has hired. It will be a significant benefit if your attorneys have worked well together and if their styles align. If your spouse hires a bulldog litigator, you will need an experienced trial attorney. If your spouse hires an attorney with a reputation for honest and fair negotiations, you can choose to try to make the divorce process amicable even if the end of your marriage was not.
Organize important financial documents like your credit report, retirement, and investment statements you have access to before meeting with professionals. If you can only get one thing, a tax return is most valuable because of the wealth of information it contains. Being organized upfront will lead to better advice and a faster route to the best fit attorney. Slowing down to prepare upfront pays dividends throughout the process.
There are several divorce processes, and understanding your options is a crucial consideration when hiring your attorney. What methods do the attorneys you are considering practice most? What method(s) does your spouse’s attorney practice most?
There is no right or wrong process; it is different for every family based on the issues in your unique case. The right fit for you is the one that enables you to navigate the legal system in a manner that gives you the best financial and psychological results as efficiently as possible.
Which process is best will depend on the factors in your specific situation.
The great majority of cases settle without ever going to trial. However, if you are involved in a high-conflict divorce, and your spouse will likely not be willing to come to an agreement, the sooner you identify that traditional litigation will be the path for you, the more cost-effective your divorce will turn out to be.
Ultimately, finding the right people to help you uncouple with the least cost, complexity, and collateral damage is essential and will protect your hard-earned dollars along the way.
At the end of the day, you are involved in a lawsuit with your spouse. While emotions are undoubtedly heightened, you must remember this is a legal business transaction. As best you can, set your emotions aside – this will enable you to make the smartest decisions for your future.
Your attorney and other professionals need to understand the dynamics between you and your spouse, but keep in mind they charge by the minute for every email, text, Zoom, phone call, etc. You want to be strategic with their time. Consistently preparing a bullet point list of the most important facts and priorities will focus your thoughts and streamline the interactions.
Sometimes compromising with your spouse is worth it to save on billable hours. Having clarity on your priorities is crucial to quantify whether something is truly worth fighting for. Be knowledgeable about what the laws are in your state. Could you truly get what you are asking for in front of a judge? On the other hand, do you have enough to satisfy your goals? If not, perhaps it is worth continuing negotiations.
Ultimately, it is in everyone’s best interest for the breadwinner to keep working and making as much money as they can. Keep the drama off social media. There have been instances where the breadwinner lost their job because of something posted on social media or some public snafu. It might feel temporarily satisfying or vindicating, but in the end, everyone loses. Acknowledge your emotions, but do not make emotional decisions.
It is common for couples to have to adjust post-divorce since most individuals cannot live the same pre-divorce lifestyle with half of the income and assets. In order to SettleSmart, you will need to know your numbers. When considering an offer from your spouse or you and your attorney are finalizing an offer, it’s likely difficult to know
what the offer really means for your future without running the numbers. Our SettleSmart analysis provides clarity based on a potential range of settlement options for the next 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years. It is as close to a crystal ball into the financial future as we’ll likely ever have.
SettleSmart analysis can help you quantify the difference between settling (and moving on) and … [+]
Common scenarios that are helpful to model are:
SettleSmart helps you to focus on what you can control. You can’t control the law, or your future ex-spouse – but you can control your future spending, whether you work and for how long, and you can make the necessary tweaks along the way. SettleSmart helps you identify the fine line between what you can compromise on and what is worth the cost of continuing negotiations.
Easy to say but extremely hard to consistently do. Susan Guthrie astutely shares that the most expensive words in any divorce are “But it’s the principle.” Principle and smart decisions are not mutually exclusive.
Taking the high road enables you to walk away with dignity. You cannot control what you walk away with in terms of assets, support payments, or how your ex behaves, but you can control navigating the process with honesty and respect.
Keep in mind that if you have children, the goal is to be able to successfully co-parent. After time has passed, the details of negotiations will fade, but you will remember whether you acted with integrity and grace.
If you can bring the above money-saving strategies to fruition, you’ll confidently start your next chapter on the strongest footing possible. Please reach out to us at TheNextChapter@bdfllc.com to learn more about how we can help you SettleSmart.
How can you minimize the financial and life cost of divorce?
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