Some people choose to pursue a low-cost divorce to try to save money. They handle all the proceedings themselves or keep their involvement with a divorce attorney to a minimum. Some couples may opt for an online divorce service that promises step-by-step guidance through the legal process.
These approaches may seem penny-wise in the short term. But a cheap divorce can have long-term financial repercussions that cost you much more than the money saved on the divorce itself. The consequences may include a protracted divorce process, unfair division of marital assets, child custody issues, and unintended tax consequences. If you agree to unfavorable terms in a divorce without fully considering the consequences, it will be difficult to get the court to modify the agreement once finalized.
A knowledgeable Huntsville divorce attorney can provide trusted counsel to help you avoid the perils of short-sighted decisions and save you money in the long run. Think of hiring a qualified divorce attorney as an investment in your future. With a Huntsville divorce lawyer at Leigh Daniel Family Law who guides you through the process, you’ll have a much better chance of achieving your preferred outcome in a divorce.
The attorneys at our Alabama family law firm have decades of experience helping clients going through divorce seek positive outcomes. We can help you hold on to more of your marital assets, protect your child custody and visitation rights, and put you in the best possible position to move forward from this painful chapter in your life. Contact our office to learn more about how we can help you.
What Can Go Wrong with a Cheap Divorce?
Getting a cheap divorce may sound appealing, but there are risks involved if you try to represent yourself or select an attorney based solely on the lowest price.
If you don’t have an experienced divorce lawyer helping you, some of the potential issues that come up include:
- Unfamiliarity with court procedures – Uncontested, no-fault divorces may seem fairly straightforward, but you still need to make sure everything is done correctly according to Alabama divorce law and the Rules of Civil Procedure. Forms that are filled out incorrectly can lead to delays, prolonging the divorce process. If you’re involved in a contested or at-fault divorce, there are additional legal issues you’ll need to deal with that can be difficult to understand. If you make bad decisions, they are hard to undo after the court has finalized the divorce. To protect your rights and your future, you’ll want the guidance of an experienced lawyer so you make well-founded decisions.
- Dealing with complicated situations – If you and your spouse have significant shared assets, you’ll need to untangle those assets as part of the divorce process. You’ll want to be sure the assets are divided fairly. If there are any minor children from your marriage, you’ll want an attorney’s help to make sure your custody and visitation rights are protected. You will want to make sure your interests and those of your children are protected.
- Negotiating – Couples sometimes think they agree on the terms of the divorce, only to have disputes arise as they work their way through the process. When this happens, a relatively simple divorce can quickly become contentious, and you’ll need to negotiate with your spouse or your spouse’s attorney. These negotiations include everything from who will retain ownership of the marital home to custody disputes to the division of shared assets. To make sure your needs and rights are protected, you’ll want help from a knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney.
- Choosing the wrong service – Online divorce services and other cheaper solutions are limited in the representation and services they provide. One size does not fit all! This is especially evident in more complex divorce cases. If an online service or cheap lawyer can’t meet your needs, you will be the one stuck facing the consequences. A qualified divorce lawyer can provide more personalized and effective representation, which makes it more likely that you’ll achieve the goals you are seeking.
Uncontested Divorce: Working Together to Save Money
In Alabama, there are two broad categories of divorce proceedings:
- Uncontested divorces, where both spouses broadly agree on the terms of the divorce
- Contested divorces, in which the spouses disagree on the terms of the divorce including matters such as division of assets, alimony, and child support.
The least expensive way to get through the divorce process is for you and your spouse to work together and file an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce in Alabama almost always involves the spouses going through the no-fault divorce process. Couples must first meet the residency requirement in Alabama. At least one spouse must be a resident of Alabama for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
An uncontested divorce requires you and your spouse to agree on everything, including the division of assets, alimony, child support, and visitation. That is not always possible.
If you and your spouse can work together, an uncontested divorce is the way to go. But you should still have legal representation to avoid missteps. If you and your spouse can agree on the terms, you may be able to use the same attorney, and that is significantly less expensive. The attorney will explain the documents that you and your spouse will need to sign stating the terms of the divorce:
- How any financial assets and other shared marital property will be divided. Alabama law requires shared marital assets to be divided equitably in a divorce, which does not necessarily mean that all assets are split evenly.
- The custody and visitation rights for each spouse with regard to any minor children
- The level of spousal support, if any, paid by one spouse to the other (also known as alimony)
- The level of child support payments from one spouse to the other
If you don’t have experienced legal representation, there are pitfalls that can be costly. The common mistakes that we have seen individuals make who sought the cheapest divorce possible without getting dependable legal advice include:
- Agreeing to child support that is far in excess of the guidelines
- Agreeing to alimony payments that the spouse cannot afford
- Failing to address the payment of debts
- Failing to include retirement assets in the division of marital assets
- Unreasonable restrictions on child visitation.
Unless you have no children and no assets, you should not be looking for the cheapest possible divorce. You should be thinking about what is best for you in the long run.
Once the divorce decree is finalized, it cannot be easily modified or undone, so it’s important to be extremely careful when spelling out the terms of your divorce. Whatever you and your spouse agree to, you’re both stuck with those terms. For this reason, couples should have an attorney review the divorce agreement and provide guidance before it’s submitted to the courts.
Limited Representation by an Attorney
Another way couples can save money in a divorce is by obtaining limited representation from an attorney. Instead of having a lawyer represent you throughout the entire divorce process, employing a lawyer in a more limited capacity gives you some legal guidance while still keeping your expenses relatively low.
For example, some couples will fill out the required divorce forms together, then have an attorney review the forms before they’re submitted to the courts. This keeps the lawyer’s role to a minimum while still providing an opportunity for them to make sure the forms are filled out correctly. A lawyer can review the divorce forms to make sure both spouses understand what they’re agreeing to and that the terms are fair to both spouses.
One key thing to note when it comes to using an attorney in a limited capacity is that both spouses will still want their own representation. There are both practical and ethical reasons for this. From a practical standpoint, both spouses should review the terms of the divorce carefully before agreeing to them.
If you want to keep your expenses in a divorce low, you may consider employing an attorney in a limited capacity. With the high stakes involved in a divorce, it’s essential that you do everything you can to make sure you understand the terms of the divorce and that those terms are fair. Hiring an attorney for a few hours of work could end up saving you a great deal of time, money, and hassle in the long run.
Contact a Huntsville Divorce Lawyer for Help
Hiring a divorce lawyer may seem more expensive than a cheap do-it-yourself divorce. But hiring an experienced lawyer offers some peace of mind and is a good investment in your future. Leigh Daniel and her team want to help you through this difficult transition in your life and make the process as smooth and painless as possible. We invite you to make an appointment to come to our office. We will sit down with you and decide the best approach for you to make a positive change in your life. To learn more about our services at Leigh Daniel Family Law, call our office in Huntsville or visit our contact page.