It is common knowledge that divorce, especially a contested divorce, can be quite costly. A simple way to reduce your legal fees is to prepare some of your own “discovery”.
All divorces, whether amicable or contentious, require the production and exchange of financial documents and information. Having that documentation ready would be one less thing that your lawyer will need to spend time finding and assembling and certainly reduce your bill. All divorce courts require a net worth statement or financial affidavit, outlining your earnings, living expenses, assets and liabilities. Similarly, if there are children involved, listing childcare expenses, food, shelter and clothing, is necessary. Expenses which a court may consider discretionary will not necessarily be included as child support but divided between the parents and should be listed as well. Such items include private school or college tuition, camp fees or extra-curricular activities, such as sports or dance. Documents which you will definitely need to provide include:
- Income tax returns for the last three years
- Tax forms such as W-2, 1099, and K-1 from the past three years
- Recent pay stubs
- Loan applications, deeds and lease agreements
- Bank account statements, including checking, savings and credit cards
- Retirement plans
- Life insurance
- Health insurance
Additionally, other assets should not be overlooked. Art and jewelry should be professionally appraised as well as valuable furniture and antiques. Certainly larger ticket items, like houses, cars and vacation homes, will need to be appraised for current values.
Gathering your financial documents and information early on and presenting it to your attorney will allow your attorney to focus on the legal issues and not spend time on unnecessary legwork and followup. This will go a long way towards trimming the fat out of your bill.