This question is difficult to answer with much specificity at the beginning of a case. The cost for both parties to settle fairly quickly differs dramatically from the cost to take a case through litigation to a final decision by the court.
But every client should ask this question. Why? Every penny that goes to your divorce attorney, and to your spouse’s divorce attorney, is money that does not go toward your family’s future.
If you retain an attorney for your divorce, no matter the path it takes, there will be some cost to you. You need to research potential attorneys to find your comfort level in terms of experience and expense. The more experienced an attorney, the higher their hourly billable rate and, therefore, the higher the cost of their work for you. Choosing an attorney solely based on the lowest hourly billable rate, though, is not a smart path either. As they say, you get what you pay for.
When you retain an attorney, you should have an honest discussion with him or her about their hourly billable rate and the hourly rate of any other attorney or firm professional, like a paralegal, who will be working on your case. You should ask who will attend hearings, meetings, etc. and whether you will be billed for more than one attorney at a time. You should discuss options to reduce the cost of the work. Your attorney should be open to having this discussion at the outset.
From your attorney’s perspective, this is a business, and it takes him or her away from their family and other billable work. It is not fair to expect your attorney to work for free or for less than market rate. It is not fair to expect your attorney to do work and not expect to pay for it in return. It is fair, however, to discuss throughout the case ways to manage the expense and make sure you understand what work will be done and billed at each stage in the case.
How can you help your attorney to manage the expenses of your case?
Engage a mental health professional to work through the emotional issues of your divorce, so that you will be prepared to approach negotiations in a practical way. Your attorney is not a trained mental health professional, and often bills at a higher rate than a therapist.
Prepare a written history of your case. The more detailed the better. Give your attorney the good and the bad. Tell them what is important to you and what is important to your spouse. Give him or her the names and phone numbers of important third party witnesses. The more information you give your attorney, they less time they will have to spend asking you questions or spinning their wheels on mistaken assumptions.
Gather as many documents as you can and give them to your attorney in an organized fashion. You probably have online access to bank and credit card statements. Gather bills, loan statements, important e-mails and texts, tax returns, paystubs, and insurance information. The sooner you gather the information, the less likely it is that it will be lost or deleted, whether intentionally or by mistake.
Review the monthly statements that you receive from your attorney. If you are not receiving statements on a monthly basis, but your attorney is working on your case, there is a problem. Review the monthly statements and consider the cost of the path you are on to the issues that are in dispute. Are they worth it to you?
Ultimately, even if you and your attorney do your best to manage your expenses, your spouse may not be in a place to negotiate in a rational manner, whether it’s due to unresolved anger, a mental health issue, or substance abuse. In that case, the paths that are open to you may be more limited.
Regardless, you choose the path that your case takes and whether, when, and on what terms to settle, not your attorney. Your attorney may give you recommendations based on his or her experience and knowledge of the risks and likely outcomes. You should listen to your attorney, but your attorney should also listen to you. If that is not happening, you need to take action to make sure that it does.
If you are looking for a divorce attorney you may contact me for a consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org or 240-507-1718
ABOUT KATE MCQUEEN
Kate McQueen has a broad foundation of experience in a wide array of complex civil litigation and now focuses her practice on family law issues, including divorce, custody and visitation, child support, adoption, and guardianships. She guides clients through the often emotional path of divorce and custody litigation with a reasoned and practical approach. She uses her knowledge of custody and property issues to help her clients achieve a successful result. Kate has also developed a guardianship practice, assisting clients in petitioning for guardianship and serving as court-appointed counsel for alleged disabled persons or as court-appointed guardian for individuals when their family members or friends are unwilling or unable to do so.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
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