This is a guest post by divorce attorney, Beth F. McCormack, who offers advice on managing your divorce, thereby minimizing divorce attorney’s fees.
A Guide To Minimizing Divorce Attorney’s Fees
By Beth F. McCormack
Going through a divorce is one of the most painful and stressful times a person might go through in his or her life. In addition to the emotional toll, the financial impact can be devastating. A common client complaint is the amount of divorce attorney’s fees incurred.
As a divorce attorney practicing over 25 years, I remind clients they can control the amount of attorney’s fees more than they realize. Given the vast majority of divorce attorneys charge on an hourly basis, they charge for every piece of work. Like any project, you must manage it in order to minimize costs.
The following is an outline to how you might be your best Divorce Project Manager rather than an emotional client with an endless pile of money to give to their attorney.
Set Clear Goals and Stick to Them:
– Decide what you want and create a plan.
– Brainstorm with friends and family initially and then talk to your attorney about how attainable your goals are.
– Make sure you and your attorney are consistently aligned on your goals. A monthly check in on this can help.
– Before calling or emailing your attorney, organize and clarify your thoughts.
Always Stay Focused on the Big Picture:
– Allowing yourself to argue about insignificant issues will cost you financially and emotionally.
– Being clear and goal-oriented will help your attorney plan a course of action and stick to it, which keeps your costs lower.
– Arguing about issues that stray from your ultimate goals increases fees.
Understand the Importance of Organization:
– Setting clear goals and a plan with your attorney will make it easier to sort out which documents your attorney will need.
– Sending all the documents you have is not a good use of your attorney’s time or skills.
– Take the time to think about what each document means for your case, and if it will help you accomplish your goals. By doing that portion of the workload, you allow your attorney to stay more focused on the legal issues.
– If you are unsure whether a document will be helpful, ask your attorney. Make a list in advance and remember to stay concise.
– A good attorney will ask you to gather the attainable data rather than fight your spouse for it. Attorneys get rich on the discovery process.
– Discovery is often the only way documents can be found if your spouse has been planning the divorce for a while.
– Give your attorney a list of any/all financial institutions you used as a married couple.
– Subpoenas are often less expensive than repeatedly asking your spouse for the data.
– An added benefit to using subpoenas is to take some power away from a spouse who might be playing “hide the ball”.
– In any divorce, you will have to disclose your income, expenses, assets and liabilities in an affidavit.
– Do your best to complete it by the deadline you are given. Efficiency and organization are important.
– Reality test your expenses with a friend or relative before going to your attorney. You will have to justify your numbers at some point and may be subject to cross examination.
– Ask your attorney if staff is available to help you with the affidavit and data gathering rather than pay the attorney’s hourly rate.
Be Clear and Concise:
– Ambiguous emails do not make good use of your attorney’s time or talent.
– Not only will your attorney have to decipher what you are saying, but they will have to contact you for clarification, which increases fees.
Stay Open to Compromise:
– With clear goals and a good attorney, it can be accomplished. Be on the same page with your attorney.
– Settlement can be easier facilitated when goals are clear, and people are willing to compromise.
– A trial is expensive and should be your last resort. Using the court system to punish your ex-spouse is financially and emotionally irresponsible. The system rarely works to punish and it often backfires and costs you instead.
– Putting aside your differences to focus on clear goals facilitates settlement, financial responsibility and emotional health.
– Realize that the division of financial assets is a large part of divorce.
– Utilizing your attorney at every turn will diminish the marital estate, leaving less money for both sides.
– When couples are able to cooperate by keeping their ultimate goals in mind, and treating divorce as a business transaction, everyone can walk away with financial and emotional satisfaction.
Know When to Communicate With Your Attorney:
– Contacting your attorney with every question or concern is not an efficient use of time or money.
– Instead, write each concern down and touch base with your attorney weekly or bi-weekly.
– There will be times when contacting your attorney is emergent. When possible, limit your contact and write one long email instead of many short ones. This will help you and your attorney to stay organized and goal-oriented.
– If possible and safe, contact with your ex-spouse and continue communicating.
– Fees increase dramatically when a divorcing couple cannot make decisions on their own, or even communicate without attorneys.
– Using attorneys as messengers will increase animosity and fees.
– It may feel good in the moment to get back at your ex, but it will prove to devastate your family for years to come.
– Remaining communicative with one another sets you up for future financial and emotional success, especially if children are involved.
Outsource Some of the Work:
– Your attorney’s role is to advocate your legal rights and interests.
– Attorneys are typically not accountants, therapists or financial advisors. Using them as such only increases your fees. In addition, they are rarely equipped in these roles and charge a much higher hourly rate.
– Hiring a therapist or divorce coach, for example, to help you sort through the emotional aspects of divorce can be helpful.
– Utilizing a financial advisor to help you project how long your settlement will sustain you is another awesome tool.
– Separating your emotions allows the divorce to be treated as more of a business transaction. This increases the likelihood that your goals will be accomplished and your attorney’s fees will be managed.
– By outsourcing, your attorney can receive the most accurate information, and use it to your advantage.
This article is meant to spell out how to save your resources for your own family rather than your divorce attorney’s family. I hope it helps.
Beth F. McCormack practices exclusively in family law matters. She has experience in complex litigation, as well as Mediation and Collaborative Law. Beth represents a vast clientele, ranging from high-profile and high net worth individuals to children, when appointed by the Court. Her expertise allows her to adequately represent such a diverse group of clients. Beth appreciates the sensitivity surrounding high-profile cases, as well as child-related matters, each requiring very different skill sets.
Like this article? Check out, “The Long, Painful and Sometimes Unjust Legal Process Of Divorce”