Yesterday I blogged on what to expect if you are going to get divorced. How long this process takes can vary tremendously, from a minimum of six or eight weeks to several years. Here are some things to do (or avoid doing) if you want to finalize the process and stop paying the lawyers, i.e., to divorce faster . . . and save money.
Divorce faster . . . save money
If you want to move the divorce along faster, get a judge involved as soon as possible. That means filing the divorce papers at the same time as you serve them or immediately after. Generally, Minnesota judges will speed up the process of divorcing by scheduling an Initial Case Management Conference (ICMC) and setting deadlines for getting other elements of the divorce completed. Once you have filed the case, and therefore been assigned a judge, you can also file a Temporary Motion to establish custody, maintenance (f/k/a alimony), child support, parenting time (f/k/a visitation), and other rules that the parties have to follow while the divorce is on-going. Having a judge issue an order and having a judge you can report to both help keep parties in line and keep the case moving forward.
Slow things down . . . and pay more
The surest way to make a divorce proceeding last a long time is to have an extended debate about the two categories of future payments: maintenance and child support. Custody (or parenting time for the non-custodial parent) and child support are inversely proportional. So, the party who does not have primary custody has an incentive to fight hard for more custody or more parenting time so as to reduce years of monthly child support payments. If your family has $100,000 of joint assets to be divided, each spouse is likely in most circumstances to get about half, or $50,000. Maybe $40,000, maybe $60,000. So, you’re fighting over $20,000. If you settle on that amount of money early in the process, you can keep it (for the children if you have children) rather than giving it to the attorneys. Click here for more details on how assets are divided upon a divorce.
But that $20,000 may pale in comparison to child support of $800/month for 15 years ($144,000). Add to that a similar monthly payment for maintenance, and you’re quickly talking about over a quarter of a million dollars, for a family that has one-tenth that much to fight over. These future payments can justify lengthy litigation, costing tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and months if not years of mental anguish. Keep in mind the value of what you are fighting for–the money and the mental health–and balance it against the cost of the fight. Otherwise, you’re just giving your money to the lawyers. Have this conversation with your lawyer up front and set limits.