Discussing the costs of divorce is nothing new to my articles. In the past, I have discussed the cost as it relates to emotions, health, and finances. This article will address the financial costs and give pointers on how you, as a client, can help control the financial divorce costs.
A very common question I hear is, “How much will this divorce cost me?” My answer is always the same, “There is no way I can predict that.” There are a number of factors which contribute to the cost of divorce. They include the number of times we are in court, the willingness of the other party to “come to the table,” the court’s availability, whether or not there is a necessity for emergency orders, etc.
As a client, there are a number of things you can do to help keep the attorney fees down. They include:
1) Keep a list of questions. You are going to have many questions for your attorney. Keep a notepad to write down your questions as you think of them. Then, schedule one phone call. If you call every time you have a question, your fees will quickly skyrocket. By going through all of your questions at one time, you will be charged for one call, not three, four, five, etc. Even if the call is longer, it is still the better way to go. For example, ten questions in one call, may take a 15 -20 minute conversation, which means a .4 – .5 of an hour in attorney time (which includes the attorney’s time for preparing notes to the file). Ten calls with ten questions would mean .2 – .3 of an hour per telephone call, which equates to two to three hours of attorney fees.
2) Seek counseling. Divorce is very emotional. Family law attorneys quite often become “arm-chair” therapists. Although, through experience and some training, family law attorneys learn a lot about the psychological aspects of the divorce process, we are not trained as mental health professionals. Our “arm-chair” counseling may not be the right advice for you, and the financial cost for that advice may be twice as much (or more) than if you sought out counseling from a licensed mental health professional.
3) Provide your attorney with organized documents, early and often. The more documents you have (regarding assets, debts and proof needed for reimbursements) to provide your attorney, the less your attorney will have to gather. If your attorney’s office has to obtain the documents on your behalf and/or organize them, it will cost you money. The easier you make the job for your attorney, the less it will cost you. When clients bring me documents which are well organized, it literally saves the client hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in attorney and paralegal time.
Pamela Edwards-Swift, Esq., Certified Family Law Specialist, 2010 & 2011 Southern California Super Lawyer