Often we hear the lamenting by clients (and others) about how much a divorce costs. Some of us have heard the joke, “Why does divorce cost so much? … Because it is worth it!” While the joke may be funny, the reality of paying attorneys’ fees for a divorce or other family law matter is no joke.
No doubt, using the services of any lawyer can be expensive. Attorneys’ fees in family law matters (divorce, child custody, child and spousal support) add up fast – sometimes faster than fees in other areas of the law – because these cases are emotional for the clients, who make many demands on and need much support from their attorney. This is only natural, because there is a lot at stake, such as each person’s financial future and the future of their children.
With that said, there are things you can do to help your attorney and help to keep your costs down. The list below is by no means exhaustive or applicable in every case, but failure to follow this advice is often why a lot of money gets spent in family law matters.
- Divide Household Stuff. Unless you and your spouse are arguing over the division or valuation of antiques or art, it is not financially smart to spend money on attorneys to divide up what can often be replaced at less cost than the fees being incurred. While it’s not always easy, if you and your spouse can work together, with a third party present, to alternate picking what you each want from the family residence, you will save thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees. Also, truth be told, no attorney likes dividing up the Tupperware.
- Obtain Financial Records. The more financial records you can obtain by calling the bank, credit card companies and your accountant, the better. This will save money otherwise spent on issuing subpoenas and will often speed up the process of obtaining the information.
- Voluntarily Share Information. There is little financial information in a family law matter which is private and unavailable to the other side. The cost of subpoenas and depositions can be saved or reduced if each party cooperates to provide that information which can – and will – be obtained through discovery if not provided voluntarily. Discovery is sometimes one of the most expensive parts of litigation, so the quicker and easier information is provided, the better.
- Hire a Therapist. Divorce is considered one of the greatest losses in life. There is no shame in seeking emotional support when going through a divorce. Family law attorneys are accustomed to supporting a client through this emotional time in their life, but clients are not best served in using their attorney for this purpose. Most attorneys are not therapists and attorneys typically charge much more than therapists. So, it is best to let your attorney focus on the legal issues while you are focusing on your emotional and mental health with a therapist who is trained to help. You will find that having some level of emotional and mental clarity will enable you to work more productively with your attorney on the legal issues and will help to keep your fees down.
- Do Not Keep Secrets. Clients often fail to tell their attorney the whole story. There is no advantage to sugar-coating events, telling only half of the story or ignoring what the other side may think of you. It is better to tell your attorney everything – the good and the bad – before the information is exposed by the other side. There is nothing worse for an attorney (and his or her client), than learning about that damaging fact in the middle of trial and then spending money in an attempt to do damage control. Trust your attorney and let him or her strategize the good and bad facts in the case.
The key to keeping your attorneys’ fees down is managing your emotions, working closely with your attorney and approaching the legal matter as you would a business matter – well informed and with a clear mind.