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Handling Family Law Problems in a Tough Economy

For average Americans, divorce or separation can be the greatest emotional and financial drain they ever confront, but it doesn’t have to be. With all of the economic uncertainty, comes greater stress and potential exacerbation of family tensions. If you are facing divorce, separation, custody, alimony, or child support issues and want to keep moving forward in a cost effective way, here are some suggestions to consider...

1. Be informed

As an informed consumer, you will make wise choices, and this will save you time and money and help you retain control of your situation. Just as you have choices in making almost any purchase, you have important choices as you approach conflict resolution. You can choose among different types of professional “problem-solvers” and then you will choose between individuals in those fields. When you are informed you can also choose the process for getting to resolution. By knowing your options, you can tailor the process of resolving issues to the dynamics of your family and your budget.

As you move toward any legal resolution, you’ll want to learn about your rights and a little about the law. The South Carolina Bar offers user-friendly information on these topics and can be accessed at Be careful to take casual advice with a “grain of salt”. Every family law case is unique and having professional advice can help keep expectations realistic.

2. Communicate with your spouse/opposing parties

Communicate directly with your spouse or other opposing party as much as you can. Communicate in whatever way is most comfortable and least threatening. In some situations e-mail works better because it can give you a chance to think before “talking” and gives you something to refer to. Other times verbal conversation is best because it is immediate, communicates feeling, and is less formal.

Make three lists:

1. “Issues we agree on”
2. “Issues we are close to agreeing on” and
3. “Issues we disagree on”

Make the lists first, even if you are making them by yourself. You are the best one to do this, and it will help you get focused on what you need help with the most. Staying focused in your own mind, when you communicate with your spouse/opposing party, and when you are speaking with professionals will save you time and money. It will help you work toward a solution in an organized, efficient manner and help you to “supervise” your professional problem-solvers.

3. Consider all the appropriate professionals

Family law matters can involve highly charged, emotional conflict. Before taking on the legal conflict, consider that doctors, therapists, investigators, and financial counselors can help clarify the issues surrounding the central problem or situation. If you are uncertain about your financial assets, a family member’s health status, emotional issues, or need some objective information, those professionals can help prepare you and your family for working toward a legal resolution. Attorneys can also make recommendations for those services if you are not sure where to begin.

Families with children face a uniquely difficult time in family court, and issues regarding custody tend to be the most emotional and financially costly. Most families resolving custody cases can benefit developing a parenting plan with help from a therapist specializing in family transitions. Most attorneys are not trained in developing these plans, but it is a simple matter for your attorney to insert the plan into a comprehensive separation agreement. A good parenting plan promotes healthy communication, facilitates smoother transitions, and give a structure for improving family relationships for the long term. Parenting plans can save you a lot of money while affording benefits all members of your family.

4. Choose the right process

No matter what issues your family is facing, you have wide range of options from mediation and collaborative law all the way to litigation. Educate yourself about the options. Generally the more agreement there is between parties, the less time and money are spent. In almost all cases, you should have an attorney review any agreement you plan to sign, but a thorough agreement can result from mediation, collaborative law process, or other types of negotiation.

In situations where there is little agreement and/or when there is a need for court ordered production of documents, subpoenas and depositions, the litigation process begins. While it is generally the most expensive option, if it is conducted in a focused manner, it can still be cost effective. Cases often are settled during pretrial negotiations for various reasons, not the least of which is to save money.

In tough economic times especially, families facing legal matters must take extra care to protect their resources. Time, money and energy can be saved when family members educate themselves, understand their situation fully, communicate (that means listening too) effectively, and make choices that reflect realistic expectations.

By Vitetta Law Group
Criminal Defense & Family Law Attorneys in Charleston, South Carolina
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Guy J. Vitetta, Attorney at Law, Vitetta Law Group, Charleston, SC
Guy J. Vitetta, originally from Philadelphia, PA, graduated from Ohio's Kenyon College with a B.A. in history and religion. As a community activist addressing consumer and environmental issues, Guy realized his most influential avenue for making a difference in the community was in the practice of law. He graduated from Capital University Law School in Columbus, OH in 1991. Clerking in the Death Penalty Section of the Ohio Public Defender Commission, Mr. Vitetta worked on appeals for Death Row inmates. For the next eleven years, he served as a Public Defender in Columbus, then in Charleston County, SC, before opening his private practice in Charleston, South Carolina.

Copyright Vitetta Law Group

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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