One of the primary concerns in a family law matter, especially divorce, is the cost of litigation. And as an attorney – let me be the first to say working with an attorney is not cheap. While I, and the attorneys I work with, do our absolute best to accomplish a client’s goals in the least expensive way possible, family law matters often (and by often, I mean most of the time) become more expensive than anticipated. Having worked with many clients who receive bills that are much higher than they expected, here are five ways to ensure your divorce will be more expensive than necessary:
Going to court is not cheap. In fact, it’s one of the fastest ways to run up legal fees in your case. The reason for this is because your attorney will likely have to spend three-to-four times the amount of time you will spend at the courthouse to be prepared to go to the courthouse.
Most family attorneys charge by the hour, meaning you are charged for every minute you spend with him/her. Your legal fees will balloon if you insist on speaking with your attorney about every piece of information, one at a time, or send five separate emails when one would suffice. To make the most of your money, start a list of topics/issues to discuss with your attorney, then call your attorney or schedule an office meeting with him/her. If you find issues are coming up frequently, schedule a meeting once a week or at whatever frequency you deem necessary.
Getting divorced usually requires gathering a substantial amount of information, especially financial information. When you find yourself in a situation where you have to produce this information to your attorney (or the opposing counsel), do your best to gather the information on your own and give it to your attorney in an organized manner. If you do not do this on your own, your attorney will likely spend time doing it at his/her rate as document production in divorces almost always must be categorized and organized according to the production request.
It’s a rare occasion for a party to walk away from his/her divorce feeling like s/he won and/or got everything s/he wanted. It’s best if you accept that fact from the start. When you or your attorney engage in settlement negotiations, know what is of absolute most importance to you and what things are not so important. If your spouse is reasonable, the two of you can hopefully reach an agreement where each of you gets at least a few things of upmost importance.
I spend an inordinate amount of my day dealing with the emotional issues surrounding a divorce. While I am happy to listen to my client and help him/her, I am not a licensed therapist or counselor. If you need to talk to someone about the emotions involved with your divorce, find a therapist who specializes in families divorcing or separating. This way, you are getting advice from someone professionally trained to help you with your emotional issues and who likely charges a lower rate per hour than your attorney.