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What to Do When You Can't Afford Your Divorce

By Julia Jones, family law attorney at Livesay & Myers, P.C.

As you've probably heard from friends and colleagues, the divorce process can be very expensive. Many people want to be smart about how they move forward by hiring an attorney, but they can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on the litigation process. If you find yourself in this situation, the following are less expensive options and ways to mitigate the litigation costs in your divorce while still employing an attorney:

  1. Reach a Settlement. This is easier said than done, especially when tensions are high between you and your spouse. However, you should consider having an attorney draft a property settlement agreement for you, which will resolve all issues that a court would need to decide. Although you and your spouse may disagree strongly on several issues, the concessions you would both make through a property settlement agreement would likely be less costly than litigating in court. And when you litigate, there are no guarantees.
  2. Mediate or have a Four-Way Settlement Conference. If you can't reach an early settlement through a property settlement agreement, you should consider mediation or a four-way settlement conference (with both parties and both attorneys present). Although participating in mediation or a settlement conference can require a number of billable hours from your attorney, this is usually money well spent because it greatly encourages resolution and provides both parties with some control over the outcome. Under this option, you will spend more money on the front end in order to save yourself considerably more attorney's fees (involved with preparing for and taking your case to trial) on the back end.
  3. Prepare and Simplify. If you are forced to litigate, you can drastically reduce your costs by preparing your paperwork and simplifying the process for your attorney. Print out your bank statements, credit card statements, loan statements, retirement statements, pay stubs, etc. and have those documents and figures ready. At the same time, don't overwhelm your attorney with documents that he or she does not need or request from you.
  4. Seek Pendente Lite Relief. If you are unable to get your spouse to cooperate, and they have a greater source of funds at their disposal than you, then you should discuss with your attorney the option of seeking pendente lite (temporary) support from your spouse and/or attorney's fees to help you take the case to trial. The likelihood of success will depend upon your individual circumstances, but a good outcome at a pendente lite hearing might significantly strengthen your ability to fund the litigation.


Julia Jones is a family law attorney at Livesay & Myers, P.C. She is one of several Fairfax divorce lawyers in the firm, handling separation, divorce, custody and support cases throughout Northern Virginia.

Julia Jones can be contacted by phone at (703)865-4746
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