Divorce Dilemma: Don’t Skimp On Early Divorce Costs

divorceBy Dad “X”

There’s an old joke: “Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it!” There’s actually some truth to that.

No matter what you do or think, attorney’s fees are substantial but so are a plumber’s. Both, of course, handle a lot of crap. Just imagine getting cheap with a plumber. Your bathroom, and eventually your whole house will collapse from leaking pipes, rot and, in the end, you’ll be homeless.

The same is true of legal representation.

When I got divorced, I kept pleading poverty to my attorney, who, in turn, tried to keep my costs down. All that led to was a bad settlement and thousands and thousands of dollars lost over the years.

No matter how friendly the divorce may be, investing in the proper legal wrangling is worth every penny in the long run.

Divorce is expensive. But there are other worse costs.

Yes, this may sound like an ad for a law firm, but I assure you it’s not. It’s one of the many sad facts of divorce.

Had my attorney had the resources she needed, we could have done all the discoveries needed to assure that all figures were accurate and fair. Worse than that, we could have dealt with many unanswered questions that would come up on a regular basis that led to letter after letter between attorneys, costing hundreds of dollars every month for the next year.

In the end, I think I spent over $7,000 in letter writing between attorneys over ridiculousness that should have been settled at the divorce.

As with my past columns, this one is an admonition of my mistakes, hoping readers will learn a lesson from my experiences.

I often think to myself, “Well, it’s just money. I’ll make more!” Unfortunately, the truth is that money would have been better off invested in something important, like a college fund for my kids or my 401(k). If it had been invested upfront, at my divorce, I would still have at least half of it to invest.

Attorneys are not expensive, if you consider what other professionals charge by the hour. Certainly remodeling a bathroom is more expensive than a divorce and while you might say, “Well, at least you have a bathroom to show for the money and it improves your home’s value,” well, what price do you put on the sanity a good, quick divorce gives you?

The more it drags out, the crazier you become and that leads to therapy, medications, loss of hair and one’s youthful appearance.

Some unanswered questions.

While many of the expensive letters dealt with the leeway one party or the other ­­- mostly the other party – felt they had with the divorce decree passages and parenting plan, no amount of legal wrangling can stop someone from swaying from the agreement.

However, if the rules are as tight as possible, the decree and parenting plan worked out to its fullest, then that leeway is pretty much reduced to as close to zero as possible.

The more gray area, the more arguing that will occur. That, of course, takes money.

Take my advice and spend it! Sell your possessions – your boat, your car, whatever, but spend that money upfront. Possessions won’t buy you good health or peace of mind.

One of the passages in my parenting plan, as I lived 250 miles out of town and made weekend visitations, was one that dealt with the inability to make the trip in inclimate weather or infirmity. It called for 24 hour notice, which my ex didn’t think excused massive snowstorms or icy roads the thickness of a hockey rink.

Also, slight illnesses, such as the flu – either my own or the kid’s wasn’t – enough to excuse my missing a weekend.

With a few more billable hours, perhaps a few more sentences could have been added to make the 24-hour notice a little more ironclad.

Travelling one snowy night, at 25 miles per hour, making a four-hour trip a 12-hour trip, I reminded myself that the passage in the parenting plan sucked. So did the pickup/drop-off times, based on my ex’s current job, which ended a month after our divorce.

Another hour or so of tightening up the terms of travel and visitation would have slowed the turning of my hair from brown to gray.

Some more horror stories.

Yes, there are more stories to illustrate why it’s better to spend enough to get everything straightened out at the beginning of a divorce, but just recalling it will send me back to therapy.

Considering I still need money to clear up even more unanswered questions 14 years after my divorce, I need to be careful when I have frustrated thoughts.

If I can relay any good advice based off experience; it’s to forget about the costs and pinching pennies. Just let your attorney do their job and write the checks. In my experience, it’s an investment that blue-chip stocks can never match.

There are many great pieces of literature for the layperson about divorce laws. Some are available from your state family court website. You can also find numerous resources here at DadsDivorce.com.

Check back on the first of every month for the next column, outlining the mistakes I’ve made and how to best work with your attorney for success and, most of all, a better life for you and your children.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men, contact Cordell & Cordell.

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