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Getting a divorce: What to do, what not to do

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(Feb. 25, 2016) -- If a divorce is inevitable, there are ways to save money during the process. The first step is to clearly define your goals.

“You should know what you want in regards to your children, your retirement plans, and your real estate. Those are going to be the three biggest areas of contention,” says Nathan Hacker, a family law attorney for Eskew Law.

If there are no areas of contention, the Indiana Supreme Court offers a “fill-in the blank” divorce form at no charge. You can also find lawyers who will charge a flat fee.

If you are going to court, try to hammer out everything before you go. Don't make the judge try to figure out your entire married life in a matter of hours. If you do, it will cost you.

Experts say you can expect your fees to double by the time you get to the end of litigation if you make the judge figure everything out.

There are things an attorney may have to fight for, but don't do it over the small things. That can be costly and it’s often typical in divorces. One couple paid Hacker to settle a dispute over an iPad. Another client needed him to settle an argument over salt shakers. If you do that, it can get expensive in terms of lawyer fees.

Here’s something else that can cause problems or delays during a divorce. Don’t hide your assets or information from your spouse, their lawyer or your lawyer.

“Don’t try to hide things because the other side is going to get to see your paycheck. The other side is going to get to see your insurance benefit cost. And until the court orders you divorced, you're still married to this person. Provide all information willingly,” said Hacker.

Don`t repeat work from the other party. If they paid for a valuation of assets, it`s probably best to use it. The cost of a competing valuation is often more than the difference in the two results. The court would probably just pick a middle value anyway. Also, know what your attorney is doing, and why he or she is doing it.

Your attorney should regularly communicate the work they’ve done and what they’ve charged for it. They should also have a plan in place for presenting your case.

And stay with one lawyer if at all possible. If you hire a new attorney midway through your case, you`re going to pay them to get caught up.

If there's a house involved, agree to a mutual appraiser. It’s the same thing if a business is involved.

Finally, if there are children involved, Hacker says, avoid fighting over them. It’s not just about the cost. Figure out what’s best for them, not necessarily what’s best for you.

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