Lower Costs of Divorce
Ways to Save Money on a Divorce
Choose Your Divorce Attorney Wisely
When shopping for an
attorney, clients may attempt to be frugal, thinking they can save money by
hiring a lawyer for a flat fee or an inexperienced attorney who will work
cheaply. This is often a mistake.
Have a Clear Written Fee Agreement
It is important to obtain a written fee agreement which makes clear the
terms of the representation, including whether any retainer is refundable, how
often you will receive statements, and the hourly rates of the attorneys and
staff that will be working on your matter. You should obtain and keep a copy of
this fee agreement and refer to it in the event you have any questions
concerning your attorney's bills.
Remember: Time is Money
Lawyers bill for their time. The more time your lawyer invests in your
case, the higher your legal fees will be. It is important to discuss what your
attorney does and does not charge for. Clarify with your attorney
regarding what he or she bills so you do not unknowingly request services you
would not like to be billed for.
Use Time with Your Attorney Wisely
Most attorneys who bill hourly for their time do so in blocks of six-minute
increments. As soon as your attorney begins work on your case, he or she will
record the time spent on your case and charge you accordingly. To avoid the
accumulation of unnecessary fees, plan ahead before speaking with your
You should communicate with
your attorney anytime you need legal advice on your case, but you should prepare
in advance for meetings with your attorney. Try taking a few minutes prior to
each meeting to make a list of questions or issues you wish to discuss and
limit your conversation to these points. Preparing an agenda will take less of
your attorney's billable time, will direct your attorney's attention to the specific
issues you would like addressed, and will allow you to resolve more items at
Your Divorce Lawyer is Not Your Therapist
Divorces are extremely emotional. While it is important to ensure your
attorney understands your side of the situation, do not get into the habit of
calling often. Remember, each time you contact your lawyer the clock is
ticking, and you are being billed by the hour.
Do Not Use Your Attorney to Negotiate a Division of Personal Items
If possible, you should try to resolve issues concerning the division of personal property with your spouse without the intervention of your attorney(s). Discuss with your spouse how the items will be divided and prepare a written list detailing who shall retain each item of personal property.
Follow The Plan
You and your attorney should agree on a course of action, plan, or strategy
in your case. Do not change direction or take an action which does not align
with the case strategy without first discussing with your attorney how a change
may be implemented. Miscommunication with your attorney is bound to result in
unnecessary and costly steps.
Always read any correspondence sent to you by your attorney and respond
if necessary. Attorneys typically forward copies of court notices, legal
documents and other communication to their clients for review and approval
before taking action. Should you fail to respond in a timely manner, this could
cause delay in your case or additional legal fees by having to follow up on
correspondence. Being organized and remaining actively involved in your case
could significantly reduce your legal fees. Although you may not understand each
document you receive from your attorney, it is important to review each piece
of information and to contact your lawyer with questions.
Attempt to Settle out of Court
If you are seeking to save money during your divorce, you and your
attorney should plan a case strategy to reach a reasonable settlement as
quickly as possible. However, if the other side cannot be convinced to settle
the case, it is imperative that your lawyer be skillful and confident enough to
effectively try your case.
Providing Documents & Gathering Information
During your case, you may be asked to provide documents, answer interrogatory questions, or complete other court related forms. When completing these tasks, it is important you understand what information is being requested and to follow instructions in completing any forms. Do not hold back information. Assume that any information requested is necessary, unless you are informed otherwise by your lawyer. If you provide disorganized or incomplete information, your attorney may spend hours sorting through paperwork, resulting in additional costs to you. Providing your attorney with complete, organized responses to any requests will not only save your attorney time, but it will also save you money.
E-Mail May be Your Best Friend
Although e-mail may seem like an inefficient and often slow means of
communication, if possible, use e-mail for correspondence with your attorney
instead of calling.
Focus on The Issues
Listen to your lawyer and focus on the legal issues of your case. Too
often, costs of divorce are driven up by emotional issues which do not relate
to the real legal issues of the case. Remember, items are replaceable and
fighting over items of personal property is often not worth the extra expense
in attorney's fees.
Cheating Does Not Pay
Do not attempt to hide assets from your spouse. This will only delay the
case, but will likely result in higher legal fees, and could result in court-imposed
sanctions. Be honest and forthcoming with the court and your attorney. Your
attorney cannot adequately represent you without all the facts.