A divorce doesn't have to mean financial ruin.

Sheree Surber, Legal Document Assistant, Contract Paralegal & Notary Public - Central Valley Self-Help, Inc.

Anyone who has gone through a divorce knows it can be an extremely expensive process leaving both parties in debt with little to show for it. After working in family law for nearly a decade, I've seen it all. It's because of this that I would like to share five simple tips for keeping your money in your pocket instead of in someone else's.

  1. Know your options! Most people don't know they have more options than muddling through the court process on their own or paying thousands of dollars to an attorney. If you don't want or need an attorney, you can represent yourself and utilize the assistance of an experienced Legal Document Assistant (LDA) to help you prepare, file and serve your documents. Not only is an LDA substantially less expensive than an attorney, but a good (and I stress good) LDA can keep your case on track and minimize the chance of mistakes. In many instances, you can even utilize the services of an LDA in conjunction with an attorney should you require additional help or legal advice. Regardless of what option you choose, make sure the attorney or LDA you choose is reputable. Some are truly better than others.
  2. Comply with all requests of your LDA or attorney! Most legal professionals bill at an hourly rate. This means the more time they have to spend following-up with or nagging you for documents or information, the more money you will ultimately have to pay. By complying with their requests in a timely manner, you will greatly reduce costs and your money will go much further.
  3. Take the time to do it right the first time! I can't tell you how many clients have asked if they "have to" take the time to list all the property relevant to their relationship. My response is always the same. They need to review the Family Code Section regarding the mandatory disclosure of assets and obligations. It's mandatory for a reason. As with anything, purposeful noncompliance comes with penalties. I have seen too many people spend way more time and money to fix errors than it would have cost to do it right in the first place.
  4. Keep your records! Many of us get a statement in the mail, look it over and toss it in the garbage. When you're going through a divorce, you'll be asked to provide a laundry list of documents. Some of the items you should keep are all date of separation statements (statements as close to the date you and your spouse decided to separate as possible), current statements for any asset with a loan against it (i.e. mortgage and vehicle), a list of major household items, tax returns for at least the past couple years (including attachments, W-2s and 1099s) and paystubs or other financial information. It's better to have too much than not enough.
  5. Think about your settlement options logically! Yes, I understand "it's the principle of the thing," but keep in mind that principle may cost you far more than an item is worth. It's important to not only think about the value of the item, but also about the cost of getting it. This may include court filing fees, attorney's fees, LDA fees, etc. It can really add up fast! If it's worth it to you, consider pursuing it. If it isn't, think about possibly giving it up or using it as an offset for something else that's more important to you.

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Fresno County LDA Reg. No.: X201110000019 and Madera County LDA Reg. No.: 2013005, Expire 10/23/15. Central Valley Self-help is not a law firm. They can only provide you self-help services at your specific direction.