Would you like to speak to a lawyer but feel you can’t because you don’t know how you’d pay for a divorce?
Does your husband tell you the money in your joint account is “his, because he earned it?”
Do you wonder how you can afford to get a divorce if you aren’t working, because you stayed home to raise the kids?
We spoke with divorce lawyer Daniel Stock about something our clients often face — what it means to be a woman in a relationship who doesn’t feel she has access to money to meet with an attorney, let alone pay for a divorce. The perception that we don’t have money to spend on a consultation can paralyze us from doing anything. We stay stuck, because we see no way out. We see no way out because we are not informed. We asked Daniel to tell us what advice he gives to women who feel they have no options.
How to pay for a divorce
One of the most daunting questions facing women about to go through a divorce is, “How am I going to pay for this?” The answer is closer at hand than you might think. Here are six different ways that you find the money:
1. Use joint money
You may use money in a joint bank account to hire your lawyer. So long as your name is on the account, with certain exceptions, it doesn’t matter if your husband deposited most or all of the money.
2. Use a credit card
Many attorneys accept credit cards. If it is a joint credit card, you and your husband will both be responsible for the amount charged, and at the end of your divorce, a judge may “allocate” the amount of lawyer fees each of you has to pay. Since most credit cards allow you to make monthly payments, you may be able to charge enough to pay your lawyer.*
3. Take out a loan
There are many loan options available ranging from loans against a retirement account to personal loans. If you aren’t sure which is best for you, speak with your financial advisor or SAS for Women.
4. Withdraw money from a savings or retirement account
Many people are reluctant to invade their “nest egg,” with good reason. But remember, if you cannot hire a divorce lawyer to represent you, you stand to lose marital assets that could be a multiple of the amount you spend on his or her fee. Divorce is a time for triage, not penny pinching.
5. Borrow money from friends or relatives
Many divorces are financed by parents who don’t want to see their children suffer in a bad marriage, or worse, a bad divorce. Even if you don’t have the best relationship with your parents, ask them for a reasonable amount of money to pay your attorney – or for the upfront consultation fee. You may also have a close friend who is willing to help you out financially.
6. Know the law on “counsel fees”
In New York, if you are a wife in a divorce who earns less than your husband, the law entitles you to have your husband pay some or all of your lawyer’s fees, otherwise known as “counsel fees.” The tricky part is that the law is not automatic, and, unless your husband voluntarily agrees to pay for your lawyer, (not unheard of but infrequent) you will need a lawyer to file a court document called a “motion” in order to enforce this right. Catch-22! The good news is that the amount of money you need to pay your lawyer up front (known as a retainer) to get him or her started on your case, is not unreasonably high in many cases. You will need to come up with this initial amount to pay your attorney, using one or more of the methods above, until he or she has had time to take legal action that may get your legal fees paid by your spouse.
7. Start saving now
Even if you do not think divorce is happening soon, but you think it may be in your future, start saving now. Often, the seemingly insurmountable task of hiring a divorce lawyer and paying for legal fees will keep you in a place of pain, fear, and dysfunction for far too long. Asking the right questions and learning your rights and what options are available to you are crucial in order to start taking steps toward independence and stability.
Daniel H. Stock, PLLC, with offices located in New York City and Westchester, brings more than 25 years of legal experience to all issues associated with uncontested, collaborative, contested or high net worth divorce. He seeks to reach amicable agreements on matters such as child custody and visitation, child support and alimony, and property division. He favors the kind of outcome that benefits you and your children as you transition to a post-divorce future. However, when discussions are not productive, consensus is not possible and litigation is necessary, he is fully prepared to aggressively protect your rights in court.
*SAS note: Be aware of interest charged to your credit card if the monthly credit card bill is not paid in full.