The last thing you need after a divorce is to cry over additional debt. Here’s how to keep costs down.

4 minute read

If you’re ready to call it quits on your marriage, brace yourself for a financial shake-up. Paying for a divorce can set you back thousands of dollars.

The average cost of a divorce in the U.S. runs around $15,000, according to a nationwide divorce survey by legal website Nolo. If the divorce goes to trial, the average cost is $20,000. The average hourly rate for a divorce lawyer? $250.

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1. Find out if you’re a candidate for a DIY divorce

Find out if you're a candidate for a DIY divorce

Do-it-yourself divorce isn’t a good option for everyone. But if you and your spouse agree on everything except staying married, don’t have kids and a have a simple marital estate, you may be able to save thousands with a DIY divorce.

You’ll have to be up for obtaining and completing necessary forms, researching the process and trekking to the county courthouse whenever necessary. Before you decide on a DIY divorce, consult an attorney who offers a free first consultation or visit your local state, city or county free legal clinic for information.

Find out: What Happens to Your Debt in a Divorce

2. Choose your attorney carefully

Choose your attorney carefully

Just because your coworker loved his divorce lawyer doesn’t mean that attorney is right for you. Individual situations differ, and so does cost, so choose your attorney wisely.

Research family law firms in your city and schedule consultations with potential attorneys so you can gauge their professionalism and experience. Make sure you understand the attorney’s hourly rates and billing practices and ask for a ballpark figure of how much he or she anticipates your divorce could cost.

3. Do as much of the legwork as you can

Do as much of the legwork as you can

Want to cut down on billable attorney hours? Then gather whatever documents you can retrieve yourself instead of paying your attorney hundreds of dollars to run around town, stand in line and make phone calls that you can make instead.

Ask your lawyer which documents or papers you can bring to the office to save on billable hours. It all adds up. For example, if you can avoid paying for 10 hours at $250 an hour, that’s a $2,500 savings.

4. Look into “unbundled” services

Statue Of Justice With Brown Gavel On Wooden Table

With unbundled legal services, also known as “limited scope” representation, you pay for only certain services, not for a full-service attorney. For example, you may pay for a few hours of advice from an attorney but handle most parts of the divorce proceedings yourself.

Going the unbundled route can save on attorney’s fees or a large retainer. Unbundled packages or services vary among law firms, so don’t assume that one firm’s unbundled offerings are the same as those at another.

5. Don’t pay to whine

Don't pay to whine

Yes, you’re hurting and need someone to talk to. Unless you’re paying a therapist, however, choose a confidante that doesn’t charge by the hour. If your divorce attorney is willing to watch a dramatic reenactment of your husband’s rage or listen to the saga of your wife’s affair, you’ll be billed for it later.

Know what’s cheaper? Go to dinner with a friend. Call your sister. Adopt a rescue dog so you can replace bitterness with unconditional love and plan the future during long walks. Complaining to your attorney is expensive and takes up time they can spend getting you divorced.

6. Consider mediation

Consider mediation

If you and your spouse attend mediation facilitated by a neutral third party, you may be able to expedite the divorce process and save money by not going to trial.

“In short, mediation in divorce is easier,” according to Goldberg Jones Divorce for Men. “At least if you and your spouse can act civil, play nice, and cooperate. The process is often much cheaper and faster than a long, drawn-out trial. It’s also much less stressful.”

7. Try to avoid litigation

Try to avoid litigation

You may be able to save thousands of dollars if you and your spouse come to a settlement on divorce terms without going to trial, since your attorney won’t need to spend billable hours on trial preparation.

“While it’s sometimes necessary to carry a divorce all the way through a tiring trial, expenses will mount,” according to Buffalo Attorneys Legal Blog. “The assets you wrangled over might not weigh very much against the fees for attorneys, paralegals, expert witnesses, accountants, and mental health professionals that could be drawn into your trial.”

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC