How to Keep Post-Divorce Costs Low

It might surprise people to hear that the bread and butter of my practice is post-divorce litigation.  Although I have a number of clients initiating divorce, the majority of my clients are already divorced.  They’re back in court to change a separation agreement or to enforce a separation agreement.  Post-divorce litigation is exhausting, expensive, and frustrating.  Here are my tips on how to keep your post-divorce costs low:

1) Consider every worst-case scenario and provide for it in your separation agreement.  For example, if Dad has a history of alcohol abuse and has been sober for six years, your separation agreement should include a provision for what will happen if Dad starts drinking alcohol again.  Will he lose time-sharing?  Legal custody?

2) Scour your separation agreement for holes.  Let’s say there are two minor children and your separation agreement provides that each party will claim one child on their taxes.  Fix your separation agreement so it identifies which parent will claim which child.  This way the parents can’t fight about claiming the younger child, who will bring a refund for a longer period of time.

3) Unless absolutely necessary, your separation agreement should not require you to renegotiate anything in the future.  I once saw two parties go through a multi-year trial because their separation agreement stated that Dad would pay the children’s “reasonable extracurricular costs, as the parties agree.”  Mom thought this meant Dad should pay for son’s private baseball coaching, son’s baseball camps, daughter’s cheerleading camps, daughter’s SAT preparation, and daughter’s college tour visits.  Dad disagreed. They spent far more in legal fees than the cost of all these extracurricular activities combined.

4) Pay your child support and alimony.  If you don’t pay it, you’ll be back in court for enforcement proceedings.

5) Speak to your attorney about filing modification actions.  A modification requires a material change of circumstances.  Your attorney will have a better sense of whether a material change of circumstances actually exists. 

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