Last week, we featured advice on how couples can be more financially harmonious.
But what about when marriages break down? Aside from the crushing emotional burden, what are the financial burdens of divorce, and how can we minimize them?
In The Path to a Successful Divorce, Russell Alexander takes readers step-by-step through the divorce process from finding a lawyer to handling post-litigation issues. The book is very accessibly written, draws on Alexander’s years of experience as a family lawyer, and is easy to read and to navigate. It gives the reader the best of two perspectives: a wide angle on the process of divorce from separation to post-divorce, and detailed accounts of cases that have helped to shape the law and its interpretation. One of only a few books on Ontario divorce law, the book grew out of the success of his weekly blog at familyllb.com. Alexander gives readers a solid grounding on the key questions about family law that they will face as they go through a divorce, including whether they’ll need a separation agreement first, how courts view adultery and why representing yourself is a bad idea.
Of course an author who makes a living as a family lawyer is going to say that not hiring a lawyer is a bad idea, but knowledge is power; the more knowledge you have on your side, the less likely you are to be sideswiped by costly mistakes. With the wealth of details about how things could go wrong, Alexander makes a compelling case both for educating yourself about the process of divorce and for how terrible an idea it can be to try to represent yourself. Ultimately, it is a false economy.
True economy: this excerpt from The Path to a Successful Divorce that outlines how to keep divorce costs down.
TOP 5 WAYS TO KEEP DIVORCE COSTS DOWN
The litigation process – whether related to Family Law or otherwise – has a notorious reputation for being a costly enterprise at the best of times. But it doesn’t always have to be so. There are many ways to keep litigation costs and legal fees to a minimum.
1. Discuss as Much as Possible Up Front.
Even before either of you have hired a lawyer, you should try to have a few long, dispassionate discussions with each other to determine the key points of contention. Something that you presume will be a point of heated battle with your spouse may not actually matter to them at all. The earlier you can identify the true issues, the sooner they will get resolved.
2. If You Are Going to Settle Anyway, Do It Early.
Not every Family Law dispute is destined for court. If, based on factors such as your relationship history, personalities and respective financial situations, you sense that you and your former partner will likely be able to come to terms at some point, then try to do it early. The further along you get in the process, the more likely it is that unimportant issues will get dragged along in the legal machinery and the higher the overall costs will be.
3. Use Mediation Wherever Possible.
Even once litigation has been formally commenced, you can use mediation to come to terms on some of your unresolved legal issues. Again, this will serve to narrow down to a smaller list those items (if any) that truly have to be addressed and determined by a court.
4. Take the High Road.
In too many divorce cases, costs get needlessly ratcheted up due unnecessary acrimony, mud-slinging, delay tactics and power plays on both sides. You and your spouse both need to under-
stand that you will save yourselves time, stress and money by keeping the needless posturing and hostility to a minimum.
5. Hire a Good Family Law Lawyer.
An experienced lawyer with the right approach will save (rather than cost) you money. His or her ultimate duty (and one that is reinforced through the Law Society’s Rules of Professional Conduct) is to help you navigate through the divorce process effectively and efficiently. A good lawyer will therefore quickly identify areas of common ground and issues that might be ripe for settlement, and will determine the best approach for getting optimum results for you.
Buy The Path to a Successful Divorce in print or for your e-reader on amazon here.