Reduce the Cost of Litigation In Big Ways

Let's Untie the Knot | Reduce the Cost of Litigation In Big Ways

Divorce may be difficult emotionally, but that may pale in comparison to the financial devastation it can carry.  Estimates provided by the Huffington Post suggest that it may cost over $50,000 to end a marriage.  While a number of figures can contribute to the cost of a divorce, the single biggest expense is legal representation.  Fees for lawyers can range from $150 to $1500 per hour.  Given that even a relatively simple divorce can take an attorney several hours to prepare, those costs add up quickly.  The following article provides little ways to save BIG on divorce costs.

 Seek an alternative option to litigation:

 It is common-sense that the more the parties can agree upon without the intervention of the court, the lower the cost to the parties will be.  Options like mediation, arbitration and collaborative divorces, allow you to avoid a litigated divorce.  As soon as you begin to dispute issues such as child custody or the division of assets in court, your costs in terms of attorney’s fees and expert testimony increase exponentially.  Alternatives to litigation are almost always less time consuming and, as a result, reduce your attorney’s fees.

Find an attorney who will accept a flat fee arrangement:

Many attorneys accept a flat fee arrangement for a straight forward divorce.  Even in a more contentious divorce, you may be able to find an attorney who will accept a flat fee for assembling and preparing the basic paperwork.  Typically, your attorney will not accept a flat fee arrangement for negotiating issues of custody, support or asset division and will not render advice beyond simply helping you handle the basic procedural steps.  That said, minimizing fees up front will save you at least a portion of your overall fees.

Ask if an associate can work on the routine aspects of your case:

You may believe that a seasoned partner in a law firm is more competent than an associate and that you need to have every aspect of your case handled by that partner.  There may be times when it is important to have the partner step in and handle parts of your case.  That said, much of the work involved in a divorce can be handled by an associate, whose fees will be much less than that of a partner.  If you have hired a partner to represent you, ask if you can have a capable associate handle the day-to-day aspects of your case.

Be organized when meeting with your attorney:

 You should always be aware that the clock starts ticking, and that you start paying money, the minute you start talking to your attorney on the phone or that he or she puts pen to paper to work on your case.  Whether you are preparing for a phone call, meeting or sending an email, make sure that you have organized your thoughts.  In addition, prepare your documents so you can locate them.  Organize all documents for your attorney so that he or she doesn’t need to spend unnecessary time digging for the answers.  When it comes to working with an attorney, time is money so “having your ducks in a row” will greatly reduce your expenses.

Fill our your financial disclosure statement:

You are in the best position to know and understand your finances.  A key document you will be forced to fill out in your divorce is a Declaration of Income and Expenses.  This document reflects how much you make and how much you spend each month and is a crucial document for the court in determining issues such as child support and alimony.  Fill out the initial draft of your statement and gather the supporting documents such as:  credit card balances, bank statements, mortgage statement, retirement account balances and past tax returns.  This will limit the amount of information gathering your attorney has to do during discovery.

Do not use your attorney as a therapist:  

 Your divorce can be an extremely emotional time.  It is easy to get caught in the trap of venting to, and seeking comfort from, your attorney.  It is not your attorney’s job to assuage your fears or to provide solace.  If you call your attorney every time that your ex hurts your feelings, you will waste thousands of dollars in fees.  Hire a therapist if you need someone to talk to about your feelings or find a friend or relative whom you can trust.   This is the time to build up a strong (and free) community of support.

Carefully review your bills each month:

Review your bills every month to see what you were charged for and to make sure that you understand the charges.  If you have any questions about your bill, speak up immediately.  Do not wait until your divorce is completed.  Even if the bills are correct, reviewing them will give you ideas about minimizing them.  Are you spending too much time making small talk on the phone?  Are you sending unnecessary emails?  Do you send your attorney disorganized stacks of materials?  Carefully examine each charge to determine how you can potentially decrease fees.

There is an old adage that reads, “Marriage is grand.  Divorce is 10 grand.”  In our current times of high attorneys’ fees, it is more important than ever to keep your eyes on the prize and remind yourself that you don’t want to spend $30,000 in fees fighting over $50,000 in assets.  By remaining level-headed, organized and focused, you can minimize your expenses while still working towards your ideal post-divorce life.

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