You have separated and feeling distressed, angry, worried about the future, lost, confused, and don’t know what to do, or who to turn to. You are receiving lots of information and advice about a property settlement from well-meaning friends and relatives…..but are they right? In many cases this information will not be helpful to you, because most circumstances are different.
Many separated couples are able to resolve their property settlements, particularly if they seek assistance through a mediator. However a percentage of parties have the “Don’t get Mad, just get Even” mentality, and this attitude is guaranteed to increase stress levels, extend the time before a settlement is reached and guarantee increased fees for your lawyer.
There are several reasons why costs can escalate :
- The parties are not focused on dividing their property, and moving on with their lives. Sometimes one, or both, parties are more focused on their anger, resentment and disappointment at the breakdown of the relationship and more intent on making their former partner’s life as miserable as possible.
- There is little consideration of the additional costs involved in this exercise, until the legal bills start rolling in after lawyers have had to become involved in protracted efforts to obtain disclosure documents, then enter into lengthy written negotiations with proposals and counter-proposals in an attempt to finalise the settlement.
- Negotiations relating to where children will live, and how much time they will spend with the other parent can drag on for months and may involve an application to the court for a decision to be made.
- If you carefully read your lawyer’s Costs Agreement you will see that you will be charged (normally at an hourly rate) for each conference, telephone call, email, fax etc and the longer the matter drags on, the higher the costs will be. These costs will be deducted from the property pool, so both parties suffer as a portion of the assets they should keep and enjoy, will be lost on legal fees.
- In addition to legal fees, the parties should also consider the cost of the time they spend on arguing over a property settlement, time off work or out of their business to attend their lawyer’s office or the court, and time researching and searching for evidence….this can amount to hours and hours of time that is precious and could well be spent doing more pleasant things!
- There is no way of knowing how much your property settlement is eventually going to cost you. Very few lawyers will quote a fixed cost, because there is no way of knowing how much work is going to be involved, whether there will be a need for court proceedings, and how long it will be before a final settlement is reached. Lawyers are required to send interim tax invoices on a regular basis to ensure you are kept up to date as to where your precious dollars are being spent, and most will require an upfront lump sum to be deposited into their trust account to ensure payment, particularly if court proceedings are involved.
Experience shows that parties who prefer to mediate, rather than litigate, will resolve their settlements within a short period. In most cases mediation will resolve a matter in the early stages provided both parties attend mediation in the spirit of wanting to resolve their settlement. Relevant documents can then be drafted and signed, and the settlement can proceed smoothly to finality, bringing closure and the opportunity to move on with your life.
So remember : The goal is to divorce your former spouse, not your assets!
Lyn Lucas is the owner of Online Divorce Lawyer. With over 20 years experience in family law Lyn empathises with couples going through a separation and a property settlement. Her focus with Online Divorce Lawyer is to reduce the pain and deliver excellent results in the process of a property settlement. With a negotiated fixed fee for this service, couples have certainty as to their legal costs. Visit Lyn’s site and opt in for a complimentary e-book “Guide to Saving Money with a Divorce Property Settlement”.