Hiring a divorce attorney can be a daunting task. Particularly when you consider the cost involved in getting a divorce. In order to cut down on your costs, consider these 6 Tips:
1. Understand that you get what you pay for:
The best divorce attorneys charge by the hour. While there are attorneys that will do your divorce for a flat fee, these attorneys should be avoided except in cases where you have no children and no property to divide. You really will get what you pay for.
Choosing the right divorce attorney is crucial. After all, you are trusting this person with your future. At my office, we only handle divorce and family law matters. As such, we are fast, accurate and efficient in dealing with the issues that arise in a case. I may charge more hourly than some of my colleagues, but I probably get more done in one hour than most attorneys get done in three.
You certainly do not want to pay a general practice or criminal attorney hourly while they learn how to handle a divorce case on your dime; choose wisely.
2. Do not use your attorney as your therapist:
Anyone going through divorce can benefit from therapy. Therapists are cheaper hourly than attorneys and often take insurance. Further, a therapists’ job is different from the attorney’s job. The therapist is there to help you with the emotional issues that arise as a result of the dissolution of your marriage. An attorney’s job is to get you a fair settlement in your divorce.
3. Divorce is not always fair:
If you are planning a divorce, you need to go into the process with the understanding that divorce is not always fair. The judge assigned to your case will not have intimate knowledge about the workings of your marriage. He or she may need to make an important decision affecting your life based upon only five minutes of information presented by your attorney. Judges are people who, like the rest of us, sometimes make mistakes.
The best way to make sure that your case is not left in the hands of a total stranger is to keep the control between you and your spouse. If you and your spouse cannot agree, you will both be giving the power over your own lives away. This is never a good idea. Therefore, you should always take a cost vs. benefit approach to the problems that arise in your case. For instance, it would be silly to spend a thousand dollars in legal fees to secure reimbursement for your daughter’s $150.00 dance classes. Your attorney should always be looking at your case from this perspective as well. You will need to pick your battles to avoid spending foolishly.
4. Early Mediation:
If you find yourself running to court each week over every little thing, you and your spouse may want to consider early mediation. In mediation you choose a mediator, which is a neutral third person who is knowledgeable in family law and who will assist you with your divorce. In early mediation, the person you choose to mediate your case will help you solve interim issues as they arise, as well as ultimately help resolve your case once discovery is complete. Interim issues that may arise include the payment of the household expenses, an appropriate parenting schedule during the pendency of the case and discovery issues. Using a mediator to help you resolve and navigate the case in conflicted matters is often much less costly than appearing frequently in court.
5. Parenting Coordinators:
If it appears that you and your spouse are going to battle over the custody of your minor children, it may be a good idea to appoint a therapist or a parenting coordinator to help you work out an appropriate parenting time schedule. Parenting time coordinators are, typically, family law attorneys or therapists with knowledge of family law. Alternatively, if you and your husband/wife have a therapist you trust to assist you with dividing your time with the kids, they might also be a good resource for keeping your custody/parenting time issues out of court.
The appointment of a parenting time coordinator/therapist to assist with the issues involving your kids can be informal or formal. I have drafted many orders that list, in detail, the parenting time coordinator’s role and responsibilities to the family and court. In other cases, a couple may choose to informally employ the services of a therapist to help them determine what schedule will work best for their children.
Whether you opt for a formal court ordered process or a few informal meetings with a mutually agreed upon therapist, resolving your parenting time issues outside of court will be better for your family emotionally, as well as financially. A trial regarding the custody of your children will leave scars between you and your ex that may never fully heal. Such an experience is never good for co-parenting.
6. Timing is Important:
Sometimes the timing of your settlement discussion is as important as the settlement itself. Let’s say you want the divorce, but your spouse does not. As a result, you anticipate that your spouse may act angry and rebellious once he/she is served with a complaint for divorce. Certainly, a discussion regarding the appropriate split of assets and liabilities should occur once the dust has settled and your spouse is ready to meaningfully hear and respond to your proposals. I always tell clients not to give a lot of energy to their spouse’s initial jabs at them, made out of hurt and anger. A more appropriate time to talk settlement usually presents itself once things calm down and the reality of the divorce has been properly digested.