Divorce cases are complicated even for experienced family law attorneys and the attorney’s fees and costs that you incur can be astronomical if your case is contested. However, there are things that clients can do to limit the fees and costs that they incur in their divorce cases. The top things you can do to save on attorney’s fees are:
- Explore settlement early on. If you reach a settlement agreement with your spouse, the attorney’s fees and costs you incur will be fraction of what they would be if you were to litigate and take the divorce case to trial. The earlier you reach a settlement, the more money you save.
- Limit your contact with your attorney/attorney’s office. Some clients will call their attorney every day to discuss everything that has transpired, no matter how big or small the occurrence/update. Except in a case of an emergency or other pressing issue, I suggest that a client contact his or her attorney once a week to provide their attorneys with a weekly update. Also, these weekly updates can be done via email. Attorneys typically spend less time responding to an email than they do having a telephone conference with their clients. When you do speak with your attorney, be prudent with your time. For example, make an outline of points to discuss with your attorney before calling him/her. The foregoing tends to cut the length of the conversation in half. Also, speak with your paralegal as opposed to your attorney unless you have a legal question or need legal advice. Paralegals bill on an hourly basis like attorneys do but at a lower rate.
- Provide your attorney with relevant information and documentation. In a divorce case, parties are required to exchange mandatory disclosure and other documents. Gather and provide all information and documentation that you can to your attorney. This will help cut down on fees and costs because the attorney or his/her staff are not spending time researching and looking for this information/documentation. It is also important to provide these items to your attorney in a timely fashion, without delay, because there are deadlines to provide these documents to the other spouse. If these deadlines are missed, then the other side will most likely file a motion to compel. Your attorney will have to go to court to defend you against this motion. The foregoing results in you incurring additional attorney’s fees and costs and you may be responsible for paying your spouse attorney’s fees that he/she incurred as result of your non-compliance.
- Listen to your attorney. Family law attorneys have the education, knowledge and experience, and you are paying him or her handsomely. Your attorney provides you with legal advice and looks out for your best interests. Let him or her do his or her job and you do yours by listening to him/her and giving due weight to their advice. Often times, clients will listen to and do things that their family members or friends whom may have been through a divorce tell them to, however, these family members and friends (although mean well) reside in other states, are not family law attorneys, do not have the legal education and/or the years of experience under their belt. Every case is different, so advice in one case may be appropriate and in other cases, the same advice is not appropriate. If you do something which goes against your attorney’s advice, often times when you get before the Judge, the Court will order you to do the very thing your attorney told you to do in the first place. This wastes a lot of time and attorney’s fees not to mention may tarnish your credibility before the Court. So please think long and hard before making a decision giving great weight to what your attorney advises you to do.
- Remember the goal of your divorce case should not be to take your spouse “to the cleaners”. When this is your goal, both parties lose. Both you and your spouse will incur substantial attorney’s fees and costs and chances are you will receive less than you would have received if your goals were different because at the end of the day there will be less to go around. Also, the Court may order you to pay your spouse’s attorney’s fees and costs if the Court determines that you purposely delayed or engaged in vexatious litigation. It’s a lose-lose situation any way you slice it.
- Comply with Court Orders. Orders carry the force of the law and the threat of being held in contempt, the Court ordering you to pay your spouse’s attorney’s fees, jail time and other sanctions. Not to mention the attorney’s fees you will have to pay your attorney to defend against the motion for contempt that the other spouse will be filing against you for your non-compliance with the Court Order.
- Do your homework. Be diligent and proactive. Read the correspondence, pleadings and other documents that you receive from your attorney or attorney’s office and make an outline of your questions and concerns before calling your attorney or his/her staff to discuss what you received.
- Tell your attorney what your goals are in the case from the start. Be clear when defining your goals. Let your attorney know what you are willing to accept and what you want to accomplish when your case is resolved. Your goals and focus for example should/may be what is best for your children (if there is children) and what is fair and equitable when it comes to dividing up your marital assets and debts, alimony, and other financial issues.