Let me start out by cautioning that divorce is not a cheap process. But one of the things that hugely affects the ultimate cost is the amount of fighting. Many a King has emptied the treasury (i.e. gone broke) by fighting endless wars.
Here are a few tips for keeping your costs down:
Pick your battles.
One thing that makes for especially expensive divorces is couples who fight about EVERYTHING. I still remember a case I heard about years ago where the couple was arguing over the bathroom supplies. I still think of that as the ‘toothpaste and toilet paper’ case. Picking your battles means figuring out what is most important to you and what you would be OK without. Focus on the big picture rather than the details.
Often the cases with the biggest fights are not really about the issues at all, but rather they are about power and control. This happens when the parties need to feel like they “won”, or sometimes more importantly that the other person did NOT “win”. Sometimes the best way to get a case settled is to let the other person think they won. This might be over something that is really not important to you, but that lets the other person feel like they got away with something!
Talk rather than fight.
The more we can talk through issues, the more likely we can reach some agreements that at least reduce what still needs to be done. This may be as simple as the two parties being willing to sit down and listen to each other, explain their points of view, and figure out if there are some areas they can reach agreements on. The more you can shorten the list of issues that the attorneys have to resolve, the less expensive it should be to complete the case. Maybe you can agree on parenting, but not financial issues. That still significantly reduces the size of the case.
It also might be a matter of engaging in some Alternative Dispute Resolution. This basically means talking in a more formal setting. It might mean doing some mediation, or using a Collaborative process. Those have their own expenses, of course, but if successful can cut out an awful lot of very expensive legal wrangling.
Discuss costs with your attorney.
Do this up front before you even hire an attorney. I have noticed that some attorneys are more focused on cost management than others. Some attorneys seem to approach cases more from the perspective of “What can I accomplish for the client with what the client can afford to spend?”, and some attorneys approach cases more from the perspective of “How do I do the best possible job for my client?”. If the first consideration is doing the best job possible, that attorney will likely be taking steps that the more cost conscious attorney might avoid.
Recognize that this is a choice you should be consciously making for yourself as well – do you want to do everything you can to bolster your case, or do you want to take some risks to cut down your expenses?
Along with making sure your hire an attorney who sees eye to eye with you on cost management, ask what steps the attorney might be able to take to contain costs. You might want to make sure they discuss some options with you before moving ahead on them. Do we need to take this deposition? How much discovery do we need to do? Should we file a motion on this, or wait for trial?
Understand at the same time that there are many things your attorney just needs to do. They need to respond to communications from the other side. They need to file certain documents with the court. Trying too much to micromanage the case every step of the way can turn from keeping costs down to actually driving them up.