With divorces costing anywhere from $3,000 to $100,000 or more, most couples would be interested in finding ways to assist their attorney in saving money. When Kring & Chung is alerted by a client that cost-saving measures should be taken where possible, we make a concerted effort to educate and utilize our client as part of our available resources during the dissolution process.
There are many ways to save on costs during a divorce. But to be frank, if a client is only willing to put in a half-hearted effort, then it may be better to let the attorney’s office handle the issue completely.
A client can perform photocopying functions and possibly save some time and costs on photocopying charges. A client can sometimes act as a messenger or take documents to Court for filing. However, a client cannot act as a process server, because the laws of California require that process not be served by a party to the action.
In divorce, the parties can work together to figure out how to equitably or equally divide their personal property. Generally speaking, personal property will be the contents of their home. It can be as simple as rolling the dice. Whomever rolls the higher number chooses the first item. The next person chooses an item of similar value or emotional desirability, and so forth. Another method is to sit down together and assign values to items of property. As long as the parties feel that they are both receiving a similar dollar value of personal property, and as long as the parties are reasonably content with the division, this is sufficient. Keep in mind that in general, property a person brings into the marriage is already their separate property, and is not divided in a divorce. Property that a third person gives to a party during marriage is usually separate property, and property a party purchases using separate property is usually their separate property. If valuable collectibles, art, antiques, and jewelry are involved, then appraisers may be necessary in order to determine a fair market value. It rarely makes sense to pay an attorney their hourly rate just to argue over pots, pans and other replaceables. Personal property is normally valued at current fair market (re-sale) value. We have heard judges refer to this as “garage sale value”.
California is a community property state. This means that assets and debts are divided equally in a divorce. That is true regardless of any fault attributed, or the reasons for the divorce. Bearing that in mind during a divorce should enable the parties to accept the fact that they will be dividing these assets and debts regardless of who actually bought them or worked for them. Then, by committing to being reasonable and reasonably emotion-free, the parties can view their divorce in a business-like manner, rather than as a tool for exacting revenge or extracting emotional payment.
Another suggestion is to be organized in the presentation of documents to your attorney. If you tab documents and divide them into stacks of similar items, you are saving your attorney the time of having to do so. By keeping notes, inventories, copies of support payments, and such before, during and after divorce, you will save yourself the time of having to later recreate those items. You will also save yourself in attorney fees because the necessary information will be easily obtained when needed.
At Kring & Chung, LLP, we are pleased to offer a free initial consultation of your family law matter of up to 30 minutes. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to find out how the laws of California may affect your family law issue. With family law attorneys in Irvine, Rancho Santa Margarita, Ontario, Chino, Sacramento and Las Vegas, we can consult with you in person or by phone – whichever is most convenient for you.
Robin C. Huggins is a Partner with Kring & Chung, LLP’s Irvine, CA office. She can be contacted at (949) 261-7700 or [email protected].