Divorce can be expensive, both in terms of the emotional costs and the economic costs. Many times legal fees top the list of costs in a divorce case. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to reduce the legal fees in your divorce.
1. Choose Your Attorney Wisely—When selecting an attorney, there are several factors to keep in mind. First, the more experienced the attorney, the higher the hourly rate. If saving money is the most important factor, then choosing a less experienced attorney might seem the wisest course of action. Be careful, though. Often, you can end up spending more money on a less experienced attorney even though the hourly rate for that attorney is less. You could end up spending money for the time your young inexperienced attorney spends learning areas of the law than an older more experienced attorney already knows and understands. Additionally, a younger less experienced attorney might be prone to make mistakes that could end up costing you more in the long run than if you hired the older more experienced attorney from the start. Compare the hourly rates attorneys in your area are charging. Do not automatically gravitate toward attorneys with lower rates. Instead, strike a balance. Find an experienced attorney that charges a reasonable fee. It might take time, but the time spent finding such a lawyer will likely pay off in the end.
2. Limit and Prepare for Phone Calls and Emails—One of the most common complaints a lawyer hears from a client after the client has received the first bill is, “I didn’t know you charged for phone calls and emails.” Remember, a lawyer’s time is his stock in trade. In other words, all an attorney has to sell is his or her time. I have spent more than half a day returning phone calls and speaking with clients. It would be unfair to expect an attorney not to charge for the time spent on the telephone with clients. You should expect that any time spent by the attorney on your case will be billed. With that understanding in mind, you should avoid frequent, but unnecessary phone calls or emails. Also, make sure you organize your thoughts and questions before calling the attorney. Another way to save on phone calls and emails is to communicate with the paralegal or legal assistant as much as possible. The hourly rates of the quasi legal professions is often less than half what the lawyer changes, and often such staff members know more about your case than the actual lawyers.
3. Offer to Perform Some of the Work Yourself—Be prepared to gather and organize necessary documents and evidence
relevant to your case. Do not hand your attorney 100 pages of phone records and expect him or her to peruse those records searching for that one smoking gun number without charging you by the hour to do so. Do the work yourself. The same goes for financial records. If you have the ability, gather, organize and put your financial records in a spread sheet. By doing this work yourself, you could save thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees.
4. If Appropriate, Ask for a Flat Fee Arrangement—Most family law attorneys charge by the hour. There are several types of cases where a flat fee might be appropriate. Lawyers are beginning to be more accepting of flat fee arrangements. Truly uncontested divorces, child support modifications, and post-divorce contempt of court cases are the types of cases your attorney might be willing to take on a flat fee basis.
5. Do Not Rely Upon Your Attorney for Help with Emotional Problems—Most attorneys are not trained as emotional or mental health counselors. That is not to say that attorney are not called upon to help guide their clients through emotionally difficult times. Nonetheless, you should not rely upon your attorney for emotional help and advice. Your attorney is likely charging you his or her usual hourly rate while you are seeking emotional advice. A licensed mental health professional is likely much less expensive and far more qualified to render mental health advice.