Let’s face it – hiring a divorce lawyer in Charleston can be expensive. In these economic times (or any other), the last thing anyone truly wants or needs is to shell out large sums in legal fees during their divorce. Unfortunately, sometimes it is the clients themselves who contribute to the high cost of their legal fees. So, our Charleston divorce lawyers have a few simple pointers on how you can help to keep your legal bill down during your divorce:
Don’t Vent – This is perhaps the single contributor to a client’s costs in a divorce. Too often clients want to vent to their divorce lawyer about what is going on in their family court case. They vent about their spouse, the court’s rulings, how “unfair” the circumstances are, and so on. If you are working with a divorce lawyer who is experienced and diligent, then your lawyer knows exactly how stressful things are for you, what is going on in your case, how matters are impacting your family’s life, and what your goals may be. If you need counseling to deal with the stress of your divorce, your lawyer is not your best option anyway. Use your lawyer to solve your legal problems. Use therapists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals (who oftentimes charge less per hour than your attorney) to help you deal with your emotional problems. Otherwise, venting to your lawyer will result in nothing but a higher legal bill.
Don’t Delay – During a divorce action, there is information your lawyer needs to get the job done. For example, your lawyer will need income information such as tax returns, pay stubs, 1099’s, and other documents. Also, your lawyer will need information about debts such as credit card statements, bank account records, and more. When your lawyer asks for any information, don’t delay in providing it. If you do, then you will be paying for the cost of your lawyer’s office to write you, call you, or email you to remind you. Also, if this information is being formally requested by the other side through interrogatories and requests to produce (discovery) and you are late in providing this information, then the other side will make a formal motion in court to “compel” your responses. This motion will result in more fees paid to your lawyer to respond and possibly payment of attorney’s fees to the other side for bringing the motion.
Get to the Point – Too often clients respond to their attorney’s questions with much more information than what is asked of them. For example, if your lawyer wants to know the cost of your month cable bill, here is a “costly” response: “Well, we used to have Time Warner, but to add Showtime and HBO was an extra $65.00 a month. Last June, we switched to Comcast because we could add a land line plus Showtime and HBO and it only costs an extra $55.00 per month . . . so right now the bill is $150.00.” Here is the “cost-effective” response: “$150.00.” You are being charged for each minute whether you are making good use of the time or not. Don’t waste time “chit chatting” or telling long-winded stories of every problem in your marriage. If your lawyer wants more detail, then rest assured your lawyer will ask you. Otherwise, unnecessary, meandering narratives and unproductive communications will add nothing but extra expense to your case.
Don’t Piecemeal – Many clients communicate through email because it is quick and easy. Plus, it is a good way to keep track of the “conversation” with your lawyer. Also, emails are oftentimes more cost-effective than telephone or face-to-face consultations. However, some clients hit their lawyer with a barrage of emails that address a single topic here, two or three items there, or repeat what was previously emailed, discussed, or decided. Of course, things will always come up as circumstances change, or you may forget an important question or fact. However, avoid long-winded emails or calls. Instead, take the time to organize your thoughts into a concise list of items you want to cover with your lawyer. If you summarize your concerns, you are likely to get a more meaningful, and less expensive, response from your lawyer. Also, only communicate with your lawyer if it is absolutely necessary. For example, if you have email exchanges with your spouse about swapping visitation weekends, don’t copy your lawyer on each email exchange unless, and until, it becomes an issue. Otherwise, you are paying your lawyer to read emails that may not matter if ultimately you are able to work things out with the other parent.
Gather Records – Gather up important documents and records yourself and make copies for your lawyer. Asking your lawyer to hunt down information that you can easily obtain yourself is both time-consuming and expensive. Of course, briefly talk with your attorney first to make sure that your money-saving efforts won’t hurt your case.
Be Reasonable – As difficult as it may seem, it is very important that you treat your divorce as a “business negotiation.” If you behave with hostility or provoke the other side, don’t be surprised when they don’t want to agree with you or make matters more difficult and more expensive. If you are provocative and antagonize your spouse, then the only person who will profit from your behavior will be your lawyer. Also, it rarely makes sense to pay your lawyer fees to fight over a household item that can be replaced for a fraction of the cost of your legal bill. Consider things this way – what if you went to a furniture store where every item is “scratch and dent” yet each item costs full retail? Also, what if you had to pay the salesperson by the hour regardless of whether you bought anything? Does that sound like a store where you would shop? Don’t let your emotions or your sense of what is “fair” get the best of you. Fighting in court over meaningless personal effects such as cookware, tables and chairs never makes good economic sense.