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6 Tips on How to Keep Your Legal Costs Down in a Divorce

By Jose Medina | Divorce

Jun 14

Man's wallet is empty do to divorce.

Remember, Time is money

Marriage is grand, divorce is ten grand.

~Anonymous

Is a divorce really ten grand? No, not always. Sometimes it’s more. Sometimes it’s less. It all depends on what you are seeking and how agreeable your spouse is to what you are seeking. Simple, huh? So, how much is a divorce? We get asked this question all the time. The short answer is-it depends. It’s like a cab ride. A short ride is less than a long ride with unforeseen detours. Much can happen during the course of a contested case that was not anticipated, making it virtually impossible to predict the final cost. Luckily, all divorces have stages that can be anticipated. Knowing this allows the fees to be timed to coincide with known stages.

Some law firms, like ours, charge flat fees for the different stages of the case. When we meet, we will tell you how much we will charge to take your case up to and including mediation, a predictable stage. If the case settles, as most do, then you will owe us nothing further. If there is no agreement at mediation, then at that point we can better tell what the cost would be to go to trial.

This approach involves fewer surprises for you. The overwhelming number of clients prefer this approach to an hourly billing rate. We prefer it too because it allows us to concentrate on your case rather than on keeping track of our time spent.

When we meet to discuss your case, we will give you a promise, which we will honor. Since we base our fee on a successful mediation, and since most cases (80% and higher), settle at mediation, there is an 80% chance that you will incur no additional fees beyond what we promise. If the case remains unresolved after mediation, then you will be given the exact fee for the trial stage of your case.

One thing is for certain, the more time your attorney devotes to the case, the more it will cost. Knowing that time spent = fees incurred, take a look at the tips below.

1. Call and email sparingly. Most attorneys will bill for their time devoted to answering your calls and emails. Time spent doing this is no less valuable than time preparing for trial-at least to you, right? That is why you are calling or emailing. So, instead, of calling several times, make a list of questions and email them all at once or call and ask them together. You’ll still be charged for the call, but it will be less costly than calling several times.

2. Provide requested information timely. Once again, time is money. If you provide information quickly and completely, less time will need to be spent gathering information and more time can be devoted to getting your case done. Don’t put your attorney and his/her staff in the position of hounding you to provide information. This will increase your bill and the frustration level of all concerned.

3. Make your own photocopies. Why pay someone to do something you can do yourself for free? Neither your attorney nor his staff will mind. They’d rather focus on other aspects of your case. In our firm, we ask that all documents be sent via fax. We have an electronic fax so that we can save a copy in our file. Also, there is no chance of us keeping an “original”.

4. Don’t provide originals or your sole copy of something. Unless you are specifically asked to provide an original, don’t do it. What if the office gets blown away in a hurricane? Send only copies or better yet fax them. There is much less chance of documents being misplaced if you send via fax. Plus, you won’t be calling us three years later asking us to return your tax returns. They would have never left your possession.

5. Don’t harp on why your friend/cousin/co-worker obtained a different result. At least not to your attorney. You may get a very long answer-and you want to keep your fees down, right? No two cases are alike. Many factors affect the outcome and many seemingly small differences can have a huge impact on the final result.

6. Remember, your attorney and/or his staff are not therapists. It’s not that we don’t want to hear from you. Honest. It’s just that time is money and we are not qualified to provide therapy. If you believe life has been unfair or your spouse is a demon from hell, call a friend or a therapist. It’ll be cheaper and more productive to do so.

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