Divorce is not cheap. It can be. If you and your spouse can discuss each of the many topics that need to be addressed – child custody, child support, division of the marital estate, maintenance or alimony, how step-parents will be handled, what colleges the children will go to, etc. – rationally and efficiently, then your lawyer fees should not be that much. And it does happen. For some couples.
But if it’s not happening for you, then you need to make sure the money you pay your lawyer is spent in the most efficient and productive manner possible. You actually have a great deal of control over how your money is spent. So let’s look at 4 things that you can do, to make sure that the money you send your lawyer today is still around months from now, to be spent on a final hearing.
1. Do what your lawyer asks you to do when he or she asks you to do it. If your lawyer asks you to send in paystubs, pictures of the kids, names and phone numbers of witnesses, review and return pleadings, etc., the do it as soon as you get the letter. The problem with delaying this is that your lawyer is required to contact you again about the exact same issue. And you get billed for that contact. Two or three of these, and your bill has gone up unnecessarily.
2.Do not use your lawyer as your philosopher or your shrink. Your lawyer doesn’t know any better than anyone else why your life is the way it is, why your wife is “acting that way,” why the system seems bent and focused on you and you alone. Your lawyer knows how to fight against all those things. The “why” part can be addressed and answered for you by your minister, by a personal counselor, by your best friend. And they are a lot less expensive that your lawyer.
3.Take ONE shot at dividing personal property. Do an accurate and complete inventory of everything in your house, garage, barn, summer house, barn, etc. Do it once. Send it to her attorney (without any values), to get an agreement on what you own. Ignore almost every “that was a gift from my parents” response. Once you two have defined what you own, pick the stuff you want, and the stuff you have no problem letting her have. And she if she agrees. If she doesn’t, then either hire an appraiser or deal with it at a mediation session, or simply put it to the side and present it as an exhibit at the final hearing. The constant letters going back-and-forth between the lawyers over who gets the TV in the spare bedroom, or whether the chairs go with the dining room table, will eventually cost far more than your stuff is worth.
4.Define and review your goals with your lawyer frequently. Keeping your case on focus is maybe the best way to make sure your attorney fees are being spent as efficiently as possible. If your goal is proving that your wife spent marital funds on her boyfriend, then your focus should be on getting bank statements, credit card statements, deposing the boyfriend, etc., not on discussions with her lawyer about whether or not she is still seeing the guy.
The most efficient way to maximize the use of your attorney fees is to keep the case focused on your goals. Sure, your ex will throw monkey wrenches and speed bumps in the way, and they need to be addressed. But by co-operating with your lawyer, using your lawyer in his or her proper role, and spending the bulk of your time and your lawyers’ time on the biggest problems, your fees will go a lot further.