18 Jan 7 Tips That Will Save You Thousands in Your Divorce
In a previous post, we wrote about couples who come into my office and ask me whether we can represent both of them in their divorce. I understand wanting to find ways to reduce costs during what will be a draining process, legally, emotionally, and financially. But cheating yourself out of individual representation is definitely not one of them.
It is necessary for you to have your own divorce attorney, no matter which divorce process you choose. That said, there are things you can do to be as efficient as possible, and reduce attorney’s fees. Take good notes, because the below seven tips will save you thousands.
Tip #1: Be straightforward with your lawyer, right from the start.
Your lawyer can only plan the best, most efficient and effective course of action possible, based on the information you provide. No two divorces are alike, so you need to be up front about your circumstances, assets, and all existing or potential issues. Only in this way can your attorney best represent your interests. Having to change course when concealed information comes to light in the middle of the process can end up being very costly.
Tip #2: Understand and review your lawyer’s bills.
Understand the fee agreement you have with your attorney, including what you’ll be charged for, and the hourly rates of your lawyer and his or her staff. Review these bills as you receive them. If you don’t understand any charges, be sure to ask what they pertain to.
Tip #3: Organize your thoughts, questions, and documentation before communicating with your lawyer.
Whether you’re writing an email, making a call, or seeing your lawyer in office, be sure to prepare a list of questions beforehand. This not only keeps you focused, but it reduces the need for follow ups, and gets you the answers you seek in the most efficient manner possible.
You should also gather and organize documentation for your lawyer chronologically and by subject matter. Make it easy for your lawyer to go through those documents. If it’s not obvious what a document pertains to, clarify it on a sticky note, or highlight the important parts. The less time your lawyer spends weeding through a pile of documents for relevance, the lower your bill will be.
Tip #4: Know your lawyer’s role in this divorce: To provide you legal advice.
Your lawyer’s job is to help you understand the law and how it applies to your divorce. He will also represent you in court. Just keep in mind that your lawyer is not your therapist, so check your emotions at the door, and certainly don’t take up precious (and costly) minutes of time venting. Instead, confide in a friend, or if you have insurance, seek out a licensed therapist. Your co-pay is going to be much cheaper than your lawyer’s hourly rate, and the therapy you receive will be far more effective.
You should also try not to bog your lawyer down with administrative queries, either. Wondering if your attorney received that email you sent? Can’t remember your next court date? Need a copy of a pleading? Fight the urge to reach out to your lawyer first. Make contact with the lawyer’s paralegal or legal assistant. If they do bill for their time (which depends on the firm’s policies), they bill at far lower rates than your lawyer.
Tip #5: Voluntarily exchange information throughout the divorce process.
Complete the first draft of your financial disclosure, gather all supporting documents together, and be open with your spouse about any other information required during the divorce process. This will help to limit extensive and costly formal discovery.
While you could make your ex fight for every piece of information in discovery, your attorney needs to prepare written questions and requests for documents, and spend time reviewing your spouse’s responses. This simply drives up your own attorney fees.
Tip #6: Agree with your spouse about as many things as you can between yourselves.
When it comes to those tangible items, like furniture, make a list and work it out with your ex. Not only will it be more cost-efficient to agree to these things, but the less contention there is, the more amicable the divorce will be. This is especially helpful if there are children in the picture.
Tip #7: Choose a great lawyer.
Don’t just make your decision based on the cheapest hourly rate you can find. A more expensive lawyer might be more experienced, efficient, and cost-effective in his or her use of time. Moreover, depending on what they’re able to negotiate for you in terms of your settlement, it’s worth the extra money spent. Look for a lawyer who is well-versed in family law and regularly handles divorce cases.
In the end, it’s you that has to live with the outcome of your divorce, and it’s you that bears the costs to get there. At The Law Offices of Damian Nolan, we are aware of this, and we’re here to help. We have litigated over 1,000 family law matters in Southern California, and have the expertise to help you through your divorce, so you can move forward in your life