Anyone who has been through a divorce can probably tell you the horror stories of how much money they spent just getting divorced. With my divorce, let’s just say that with the amount I spent I could have supported a large village in Africa for a year. At the time, I was willing to pay just about any amount of money to be divorced . There was no amount of money in the world worth staying married to my ex for one moment longer, so I just paid the bills my attorney sent me in hopes that I could get divorced, still keep my credit score in the 800’s and not end up losing it all and living under a bridge by the local highway.

Deciding to hire an attorney is your choice. Personally, I would not get a divorce without some kind of legal guidance. If you find out you need a tooth removed it is unlikely you are going to do it yourself. You are probably going to hire a professional who has not only the education but the experience to make it as painless as possible for you.

A collaborative divorce is the way to go for some, where there is only one attorney involved and most of the details have already been hashed out between spouses first. However, if you are having a difficult time deciding on issues or are just unable to come to any kind of agreement at all, then it may be necessary to hire an attorney or mediator. In reality, how much you choose to pay for an attorney is up to you. If you and your spouse can divide up your assets without any major issues, then the expense for your divorce can be minimal. However, if you would rather do everything in your power to keep your ex from having the tacky crystal candlesticks that dear Aunt Mae gave you 10 years ago then be prepared for each of you to hire an attorney and pay through the nose.

It is truly amazing how quickly attorney fees, court costs, etc. can add up. Throw in an argument with your ex that you need your attorney to hash out with the opposing counsel and your attorney’s fees are going to grow like Jack and the Beanstalk….fast and high… and the big giant that lives up there in the cloud? Well he is a creditor ready to take back all of the money you put on your credit card to pay for your divorce in the first place.

I had already paid my attorney a $5,000 retainer when I first hired her to represent me. Within about four weeks she had already gone through my entire retainer and sent me a bill for another $2,500 before we even stepped foot in a courtroom! I’m still wondering where had all of my money gone?

If you are asking yourself the same question then consider the average cost of an attorney’s time per hour is around $150, and I am averaging on the low side. Now let’s say you are fighting over a $1000 table that you and your ex purchased together and although neither of you truly loves the piece, you simply don’t want the other to have it. Neither of you are going to give in so thus begins the divorce charge-a-thon:

You call your attorney (who will probably start charging you the moment the phone starts ringing) and you tell him all about this piece of furniture that you simply can not live without. Your attorney listens, asks questions and asks you to take photos and send them to him.

The next day he receives your e-mail and your account begins to be charged before he downloads the first picture. After printing out said picture (remember that you’re being charged for printer fees too), he drafts a letter to your ex’s attorney and sends it in the mail (now you get to pay for postage)! A few days later he receives a response in the mail from your ex’s attorney stating that his client wants the table as well and is prepared to stand firm and to let you have it over his dead body. However, he will consider letting you have the table if you are willing to let him have the flat screen TV.

As the words “Absolutely NOT !!! He can kiss my butt” come out of your mouth, your attorney begins to fantasize about his all expenses paid trip to Fiji that he is about to book because of how much money he is making on your divorce.

Do you see the pattern I’m drawing here? That $1,000 table has now cost you a ridiculous amount in attorney and other court fees…all because you wanted to teach your ex a lesson. Did it work? Are you happy now? How’s your bank account holding up? Are your creditors calling you yet?

My first suggestion to help decrease attorney’s fees is to TRY to draw up a division of assets that you both agree on. First, go through your combined assets and divide items that you each brought into the relationship. Then make a list of things YOU want and things YOUR EX wants. Then, start playing the adult version of “Go Fish.”

One of you begins by saying “I would like to keep the (insert item here.)”
Your ex can either say “yes” or “no” (or “Go fish!”) If your ex says “yes”, then write it down. Now it is his turn to ask for an item that he wants to keep. Go back and forth like this until all items are either listed under your name, his name or undecided. After you are finished you both will sign your agreement and you will both get a copy. You may even want to document specific items with photos.

It sounds simple and childish but fighting over items that have no sentimental or real value is just that – simple and childish!

There are definitely some very ethical and honest attorneys out there, but they are not stupid either. If you are willing to fight over the neon Budweiser sign that is hanging in your garage then I don’t blame any attorney for being compensated for their time and effort in trying to get you what you cannot live without.

I am not saying that attorneys are going to make you go bankrupt, but I am saying that your own behavior might.

Author's Bio: 

Dana E. McIntyre and her husband created Partner Diary ( after they both realized they needed a place to journal daily events dealing with ex-spouses. After years of research with attorneys and judges alike, they discovered that people going through a divorce or separation had no place to securely document situations regarding their children if they were going through a divorce or child custody case without the possibility of their journal being subpoenaed by opposing counsel.

Her ‘Diary of an Ex-Spouse” has been published numerous times and she continues to develop additional suggestions on how to protect yourself during divorce proceedings. She is also a motivational speaker to women’s groups regarding the importance of daily journaling for court cases.

Dana McIntyre is a busy mother of three kids , wife to a hard working software programmer, and still has time to enjoy two of her favorite activities – camping and triathlons. Born and raised in Atlanta, Dana holds a GA Real Estate License and has extended her sales capabilities by marketing Partner Diary, the most recent software program created by Wink Software.