One of the first questions clients often ask is, “How much will this divorce cost?” Several factors can influence legal fees that are beyond this attorney’s control.
a. Complexity. A case involving issues such as the value of a business or child custody may add complexity and attorney fees. (A parent has to look out for what is best for the child(ren). In rare cases, a parent is so eager to avoid conflict and increased legal fees, that he or she agrees to something that harms the children.)
b. Willingness to settle. Sometimes a reasonable settlement should be relatively easy to reach, but one or both parties make unreasonable demands. There should be a realistic cost-benefit analysis of when to fight and when to settle.
c. Conflict and emotions. Divorce often involves strong emotions. Animosity or the desire for revenge can increase attorney fees. Some waste good money fighting over minor issues or by aggravating a spouse so that a reasonable resolution becomes difficult or impossible.
d. Attorneys. Attorneys have the responsibility to seek to reduce unnecessary conflict that may result in harm to the client and the cause of justice. Attorneys do a disservice when they adopt an approach of “let’s you and him fight” (and I will bill you monthly). Look for an experienced divorce attorney with a realistic view of what you are likely to achieve, who will work to obtain a resolution that benefits you without unnecessary delay, conflict, and attorney fees. You want to walk out without getting taken to the cleaners by your spouse or your attorney.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE LEGAL FEES?
1. Fight over the important things. Decide what is important and spend your time and energy obtaining and organizing information that relates to the key issues in your case. Try not to get sidetracked by your spouse’s emotional outbursts. Stay focused on the relevant and the material.
2. Don’t waste attorney fees in dealing with conflict. It is expensive to use lawyers to fight battles that should be avoided. When you get upset you can call your attorney to schedule another deposition or you can exercise, pray, work hard, reflect, seek counseling or go for a walk to help reduce conflict and the costs related with obsessing about your divorce.
3. It has often been said that if an attorney represents himself, the attorney has a fool for a client. That means that even an experienced attorney needs the advice from a third party who can analyze the case without undue emotional involvement. That also means that if you want to obtain the full benefit of having an attorney, you should obtain a good one whose advice you will not needlessly second guess and who will not let emotions cost you money.
4. Recognize that divorce can be painful and try not to blame everything on your spouse. Hiring the most expensive and most aggressive junk yard dog for an attorney is a costly and ultimately unrewarding way to deal with the pain of divorce.
Look for an attorney with whom you can communicate openly and who has a mature and experienced approach that can help to reduce unnecessary conflict and costs during a difficult time in your life.