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How to reduce trauma and expense of divorce

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Don't confuse your lawyer with your psychotherapist.

Suburban Journals
1 October 2008

How to reduce trauma, expense of divorce
By Cynthia Fox

Divorce is costly. There is an emotional and psychological toll as well as the energy drain for even the most amicable dissolutions. Typically, the parties are also hurt and angry. Mix in some contentiousness and a desire to settle old scores and it can take years to get back what is paid out in overspent emotions.

Not to mention the financial cost. But I must. Two people live more cheaply together than apart. After divorce, there are two mortgages and two homes to furnish, not to mention all the inefficiencies of buying just for one. But I am ahead of myself. Before getting on with life, both parties have to pay their attorneys and these moneys come out of the marital pot that is divided - usually 50/50 - between husband and wife.

Today, I'll discuss how to reduce the legal cost of the divorce, while also lessening the emotional and psychological pain. Many of these principles are incorporated into my unique method of divorce practice called the ConstructiveDivorce, which is designed to help my clients get on with their life with their emotional and financial resources intact. Here are four things to lower your legal bill:

1. Be prepared when you meet or communicate with your attorney. This is a period of high anxiety and all sorts of questions and concerns will emerge, which is all the more reason to spend time outlining your thoughts - on paper - before you fire off that email, or call or visit your lawyer. Identify your goals and priorities, list the questions you need answered and bring that outline to bear on the communication, whether in-person, on the telephone or at the keyboard. Insist that your attorney be organized and focused also. If he or she can't or won't, find one that will. Many of my colleagues are overbooked and under prepared and prone to drift right along with their client.

2. Don't confuse your lawyer with your psychotherapist. A good divorce lawyer is compassionate and supportive, empathetic to the pain of their clients. But their primary role is to get you through the legal process, providing guidance on dividing the property, determining custody and parenting plans for any children and insuring that the support needs of everyone are met. These are evocative topics - some amount of emoting is normal - just monitor yourself to make sure youre staying focused on the legal process. If you aren't, this could signal a need for on-going support. I assure you there are better-qualified and less expensive resources than your divorce lawyer. Usually friends, family or clergy are available to help. Employee assistance personnel at your job can also be helpful as well as a professional therapist.

3. Work through your anger; don't get stuck in it. Many clients come to their divorce intent on hurting their spouse to make him or her respond. They demand endless inquiries - motions, discovery actions, depositions - into every aspect of their spouses life well beyond what is needed to bring about a just resolution. This often happens when infidelity is suspected, even though proving unfaithfulness rarely influences the outcome of a case. Carrying out these demands spikes the fees and its impact is doubled when the other side responds in kind.

4. Do your homework. Every case requires information that only the client can provide, such as a statement of property. I supply the forms and guidance; the client provides the information. Some clients procrastinate. Others fail to send in the information when needed or the form is incomplete. As a result, appointments are unproductive, as are conferences with the other side, and they have to be rescheduled.



Cynthia M. Fox is a Clayton attorney. She can be reached at cfox@cynthiafoxlawyer.com or at 314/727-4880. She has pioneered a new approach to divorce called The ConstructiveDivorce as well as handling a wide variety of other family law matters in her 25 years of practice. Reading or following the information in this article does not create an attorney-client relationship with Cynthia Fox.
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