Saving Money on Divorce Legal Fees

The cost of the legal fees involved is one of the things that concerns people the most about a divorce. Many families are already struggling to pay their daily living expenses and regular monthly bills. When a couple decides to divorce, the cost of the entire process could end up being tens of thousands of dollars. When added up, the legal fees and other expenses associated with divorce can be overwhelming, especially in the current economy.

However, it may be possible to do the divorce yourself if you and your spouse do not have children and can communicate well enough to agree on property division. To make sure that the documents are correctly prepared and you have the correct documents to file with the Court, feel free to ask for assistance from any Court Assistance Office near you. Some areas have an “attorney workshop” were you can go and ask an attorney questions about the law. However, doing your divorce by yourself should only happen if you and your spouse are in full agreement about the things related to divorcing such as who will get certain property, who will remain in the home and who will pay which outstanding bills.

By mediating your divorce, there is a greater chance of the process being a less expensive one compared to litigation. Throughout the entire process, a neutral third-party mediator can help you discuss and come to an agreement on the issues related to your divorce. This saves time and money that would normally be spent on attorneys in court arguing the case. In any divorce mediation case, it is helpful for the parties to have some form of open communication, although the process is still most often effective even where disputes exist.

When you do use an attorney, divorce expenses can be reduced by the clients doing most of the legwork on gathering evidence, and providing full and complete information as requested by your attorney. The more time you can do instead of your attorney or the assisting paralegal, the more you will save. If unsure of what you can do on your own, you can ask the mediator for processes and services that you can save money on. When you and your spouse agree to be more involved in the proceedings and take initiative to do things on your own, your divorce will be resolved faster and thus becomes less of a money pit.

Attorney Fees – Part 4 – Other Legal Fees

This is Part 4 of this 4-part article. Please refer to the other 3 parts to read this article in full.

In addition to your attorney fees, you may be required to pay some or all of these extra expenses or otherwise referred to as legal fees:

– Filing fees,
– Per page or flat fee for word processing, photocopying and fax,
– Secretarial time,
– Overtime,
– Telephone charges,
– Courier, postage, and overnight delivery charges,
– Reporter charges for recording testimony and providing a written script of the same,
– Court fees and other court costs,
– Lawyer travel expanses, including gasoline, mileage, parking fees, meals, airfare and lodging,
– Expert and consultant fees,
– Investigator fees,
– Jury fees and mileage fees (set by law) if you request a jury for your case. These expenses must be paid in advance,
– Service fees for people who locate witnesses and other parties involved in the case and deliver legal papers to them,
– Witness fees and mileage charges for people who testify at depositions and trials. These amounts are set by law. You also may need to pay travel expenses if a witness must be brought in from far away,
– Other fees related to your case.

Make sure that you’re not taken by surprise with any hidden costs or expenses. It would be wise to discuss them with your potential lawyer before you actually hire him or her. Also, you need to find out if you are going to be responsible for paying these costs directly as they arise or if you are going to have to reimburse your lawyer for these expenses that he or she may pay on your behalf. It would be in your best interest to ask for a written estimate of all anticipated additional costs. You can also determine a certain dollar amount and tell your lawyer that costs over that amount have to be approved by you in advance.

Your Legal Bill

Unless your case is under a contingency fee agreement, your lawyer would probably bill you monthly unless agreed upon otherwise between the two of you. As mentioned before, if you’re paying your lawyer hourly, you may want to establish a cap or a limit at which your lawyer needs to get your permission before spending more.

When you receive your legal bill, you need to take your time going over it. You do have the right to get itemized bills that would show you how your lawyer has spent his or her time on your case. The bill needs to show your lawyer’s fees and expenses with an appropriate explanation for each. For instance, if you’ve been charged 6 hours for a research time, your bill needs to spell out what exactly was being researched. If it doesn’t, you need to ask your lawyer for specifics. If something seems suspicious, don’t automatically accuse your attorney. Just give him or her a call and ask for an explanation. Even if it was a justified charge, this will let your lawyer know that you’re paying a very close attention, which is totally within your rights.

You can get on a fee payment schedule. This is a monthly payment plan which allows you to pay an expected sum every month on the balance of your bill. But, be careful with this. In general the attorney would charge interest on the remaining balance. And that’s more money out of your pocket. Many attorneys will arrange a fee payment schedule after they have received a retainer from the client.

And last but not least, lawyers are just humans as we all are. All humans make mistakes every now and then – lawyers too. Don’t be afraid to pull out your calculator and check the math on your bill. If you find that the numbers are not adding up, simply bring it to your lawyer’s attention. Anytime you think your lawyer’s bill contains an error or something that you don’t agree with, contact your lawyer immediately and try to resolve the discrepancy.

Not Being Able to Pay the Bill

If you cannot afford paying your lawyer’s bill, contact your lawyer immediately (don’t wait) to see if you can make any payment arrangements. You could ask your lawyer to postpone work temporarily until you can pay the bill. However, if you cannot reach an agreement, your lawyer may be entitled to stop working on your case. In some cases, your lawyer may acquire a lien on your house or property to secure their fee. So, it is recommended for you to come up with a plan on finding the funds necessary to pay your attorney.

Reducing Your Legal Costs

Time is money when it comes to legal fees. By answering your lawyer’s questions fully and honestly, you will save time and also help your lawyer do a better job. Regardless of how embarrassing or how uncomfortable your answer is, by not providing your lawyer all of the needed facts, he or she would need to spend more time figuring out those details, which will cost you more money. Remember that the ethics of the profession bind your lawyer to maintain in the strictest confidence almost anything you reveal during your private discussions. So, by providing your lawyer all of the needed information, you will save a lot of time, which on the other hand will reduce your legal costs.

Also, offer your time. Let your lawyer know that you are willing to help out, such as picking up or delivering documents, making phone calls, faxing documents and such. Instead of paying for an overpriced hourly rate for someone else to do it, by you doing some everyday general tasks, you can reduce your legal costs tremendously.

Disclaimer: The author and publisher of this article have done their best to give you useful, informative and accurate information. This article does not represent nor replace the legal advice you need to get from a lawyer, or other professional if the content of the article involves an issue you are facing. Laws vary from state-to-state and change from time-to-time. Always consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions about the issues described in this article. Thank you.

How To Save On Legal Fees Without Compromising On Quality

Everyone would like to cut expenses, but for many couples going through a divorce, they just keep piling up, especially legal fees. Surprisingly, the experienced attorney with the higher hourly rate may not be the most expensive. When you hire an experienced divorce attorney, he or she will be able to identify the critical issues in your case, set reasonable expectations for the eventual outcome, have the skills to represent you in court, and be able to guide you on where to invest your legal dollars. He or she will have a large database of documents drafted in similar cases to draw upon and customize to fit your needs, saving you time and money. These advantages will likely to save you money over a less experienced attorney.

So where can you find some savings without sacrificing quality?

Since a client is billed based on the time a lawyer spends on their case, anything the client does to cut down on that time will save money. With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how you can reduce lawyer time spent on your case and save on your legal fees:

1. Most people hiring a divorce attorney will be asked to provide their lawyer with copies of their complete financial history, sometimes going back several years. This typically includes copies of all bank records, tax returns, brokerage records, deeds, titles, etc. This can be a very large task, but it is a great way for clients to cut costs by doing the organizing work themselves.

For instance, Client #1, who comes in with a grocery bag full of unsorted papers in response to this request. That client will be paying for the time it takes for an associate or paralegal to sort through and organize those documents, and then have them copied or scanned. If pages are missing, Client #1 may have to pay for the firm to get copies directly from banks and other institutions to fill in missing information. This exercise will take hours of legal work and cost hundreds of poorly spent dollars for Client #1.

Now compare Client #1 to Client #2, who carefully assembles her documents and has them scanned onto a storage device or provides us with neatly indexed and organized binders containing all of the documents requested in chronological order, including both a copy for our firm and one for the opposing counsel. This makes it easy for the lawyer to look over the documents, identify any issues, and then serve the documents on the other attorney. Most importantly, this saves hours of legal work for the attorney and staff. Client #2’s efforts can save her hundreds of dollars, and she earns the gratitude of her lawyer and her staff as a bonus!

2. I long ago lost count of the number of times a client has told me that their future ex-spouse has refused to discuss and issue and told them to have her lawyer take it up with his lawyer. That should never be the approach for dealing with day-to-day issues, which ideally should not involve the lawyers. It is almost always a waste of your money to have your attorney take the time to address minor matters that have no enduring benefit to you or your case. Since saving money is likely a common goal you share with your future ex-spouse, I encourage my clients to try to find a method to handle these issues outside of involving the attorney.

What if your ex will not cooperate? Try to stay focused on the benefits and the costs when deciding whether to ask your lawyer to intervene. For instance, if the issue involves a needed repair in the home, and the cost is $300, should you involve your lawyer, who will involve your spouse’s lawyer, at a likely combined expense that is greater then the cost of the needed repair? Some clients will want to do just that, perhaps in the hope that doing it once will encourage the intransigent spouse to cooperate next time, while others will prefer to make the repair and ask for a credit or offset later. Do what is best for you, but don’t lose sight of the costs and ultimate benefit. The fact is it is never wise to spend hundreds of dollars on an issue with little end reward. Spend your money where it counts.

3. Meeting deadlines is another area where money can be saved. Each missed deadline will have a consequence, from minor to major, and a corresponding expense. While missing some deadlines may be unavoidable, others can be avoided, as can the corresponding expense.

Make no mistake that the client who routinely needs reminders of deadlines, or who needs to be prodded to bring in requested documents, will pay more in legal fees. These delays may require the attorney to take the time to call the client, send out reminder letters, and arrange for extensions of time with the court or opposing counsel. The expenses may be more significant where the client’s failure to meet deadlines despite repeated warnings from the court and lawyers, leading to costly court motions with significant legal consequences.

These legal fees can be saved just by meeting deadlines. As a bonus, your attorney will appreciate having a cooperative client who is on top of their case.

4. During your divorce you may have complaints about the behavior of your future ex, his lawyer, the courts, and the system. Your complaints may be valid, but they will have no legal or practical solution short of bringing your case to its conclusion and getting you divorced. Avoid calling your lawyer when these issues come up unless you want to pay for her to just listen to the complaint. Call someone who will not charge you for the time it takes to hear your complaint!

There are undoubtedly many ways to save money on legal fees that are not included here. As a rule, anything you can do to minimize the time spent on your case by your lawyer will save you money. Your lawyer should be able to identify areas where you can save without sacrificing the quality of services provided. If he or she does have other suggestions on how you can save money, please post them here as a comment and share them with our readers. The advice will be much appreciated!