Let’s state the obvious. Even when you’re in a financially stable position, divorce is incredibly stressful. Now, what happens if you want (or need) a divorce but your bank account is depressingly empty? What happens if you want to get a divorce, but you’re broke?
Too often, spouses, and especially women, decide to stay in unhappy and unhealthy marriages because they fear they cannot afford to get divorced. Their fears are understandable. According to the legal website, Nolo, the average cost of divorce in the United States was $12,900. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, that cost can seem insurmountable.
What do you do?
Fortunately, there are ways to dramatically lower or even eliminate the cost of divorce. Here’s what you need to know to save money on your divorce.
Stay Out of Court!
The most direct way to save money on your divorce is to avoid expensive legal battles with your spouse. Nolo’s survey of its member found that of the $12,900 cost of an average divorce, $11,300 of that amount came from attorney’s fees!
If possible, file for an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse don’t have many assets, haven’t been married for very long, and are able to maintain a cordial relationship, you may be able to hammer out a divorce settlement that you can both live with. That could eliminate the need for expensive lawyers.
However, filing for an uncontested divorce isn’t the right option for every couple. Many couples struggle to find agreement on some of the biggest divorce sticking points, like child custody, ownership of the home, business ownership, spousal support, retirement and pension distributions, etc.
In these situations, consider trying mediation first before you go to court. According to Thervo.com, meditation can cost between $500 and $1,500. That’s more expensive than an uncontested divorce, but it can still save you thousands or even tens of thousands when compared to waging your battles in court.
Get Your Court Fees Waived
Even if you and your spouse agree to file for an uncontested divorce, you’ll still be expected to pay a range of court fees to make your split legal. These fees differ from state to state but can run up to $500 or more. These fees can represent a crippling financial burden for some.
If you can’t afford the court fees, you may be able to get them waived. Find your local divorce court or family court online. The website should provide all the forms you need to file for your divorce along with a form requesting a fee waiver.
Download and fill out the fee waiver form, which will ask for your income, dependents, debts, and other financial information. You’ll need to get the form notarized. Many banks and libraries offer notary services for free. You can also go down to the court and have your form notarized by the clerk.