It costs money to get a divorce, but a divorce doesn’t have to break the bank. Most people are surprised at the extent to which they have control over their legal bills. Here are suggestions for reining in the cost of your divorce.
Find the Right Attorney: The right attorney for you isn’t necessarily the attorney your sister used or the discount attorney from the online review site. Your attorney should have the experience necessary to represent your interests. A divorce involving complex assets or contentious child custody issues requires a different skillset than a simple divorce after a short marriage. Starting out with an attorney who is a good fit will save you money in the long run.
Read the Fee Agreement: Your attorney will present you with a written fee agreement that outlines the terms of representation. It should include the retainer amount and the hourly rates of attorneys, paralegals, and other staff members in the firm. Keep those rates in mind when you decide whom to speak to at the law firm.
Remember that the Meter is Running: Law firms typically charge in six-minute increments, so a two-minute phone call with an attorney who charges $300 per hour costs $30. Every time you call the law office or meet with your attorney or someone from the firm, you are being charged. Every time a paralegal needs to call you to remind you to return a signed document, you are being charged. When the firm does work on your case outside of meetings and calls, you are being charged. You can help control these charges by making wise choices, such as:
- Be proactive by bringing to your first meeting all of the documents and information you think your attorney will need. When you receive documents and forms from the attorney, complete and return them right away.
- Get the most out of each call and meeting by taking notes of what was said and of the actions you need to take.
- Remember that different staff members bill at different rates, so consider asking questions of a paralegal rather than your attorney.
- When you need a sounding board or when you want to vent, take a friend out for coffee instead of calling your attorney.
- Resist the impulse to call or email each question. Three two-minute phone calls can cost $90, but one six-minute call can cost $30, so ask a group of questions at the same time.
- When possible, work it out with your spouse. By the time both of your attorneys negotiate who gets the television and who gets the iPad, you would have been able to buy one of each. Instead, agree to as much as possible prior to involving your attorneys.
Don’t Switch Strategies: Once you and your attorney come up with a strategy for your case, don’t go off on a different track. If you’ve had a change of heart or are considering a different course of action, first discuss it with your attorney. Lack of communication can result in time billed for unnecessary work or duplicate work.
Stick with the Facts: Relationships can be messy and feelings can run high. If you’re tempted to withhold information from your attorney – whether it’s an extramarital affair or assets tucked away – resist the temptation. Not being forthcoming will cost you in the long run because the divorce will be delayed and your attorney may have to amend court filings.
If you’re looking for a fair and reasonably priced divorce attorney who’s the right fit for your case, call Griffith, Young & Lass at 858-371-5569. You’ll receive a free consultation and aboveboard disclosures about fees.