By Aubrey Connatser
Getting divorced can be a costly undertaking, especially if your case ends up going to trial. Unfortunately, some people end up spending more in attorney’s fees than necessary. The good news? If you are planning to divorce, you can rein in costs simply by avoiding the following mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: Picking the wrong divorce lawyer
It’s extremely important to have a good rapport with the person who will be navigating the divorce process with you. Parties who don’t see eye to eye with their divorce attorneys, typically end up with less consistency in strategy and more time spent in meetings.
For example, say you are someone who hopes to settle your divorce as amicably as possible. If you hire an attorney who prefers to handle contentious divorces, you will spend a lot of time and money trying to reach a consensus regarding what to do and why.
Not sure how to find the right attorney for your circumstances? Aubrey provides six essential tips for hiring a divorce attorney here.
Remember, divorce lawyers bill by the hour. When you have confidence in your lawyer, you probably won’t question him or her as much (not that you shouldn’t question your attorney). In addition, you will probably be more inclined to trust his or her judgment and spend less time agreeing on a strategy.
Mistake No. 2: Using your divorce attorney as a therapist
Initially, it can be a good thing to explain to your lawyer what led up to your divorce emotionally, because that helps inform him or her as to where you are from a mental health perspective. However, extensively relying on an attorney for emotional support can get expensive. Therapists tend to charge much less than lawyers – depending on who you hire.
Mistake No. 3: Not understanding your divorce lawyer’s fee contract
Different lawyers charge different fees, so be sure to review how time is billed before signing a contract. Inquire about the lawyer’s hourly rate and how you will be billed for time other people in the firm spend working on your case, such as paralegals and law clerks.
You should also ask what sort of retainer is required. Technically, retainers are refundable, so find out what the law firm’s policy is regarding timing of refunds. In addition, find out how the firm bills incremental time entries – by the tenth of an hour, quarter of an hour, etc.
Being prepared can help smooth the divorce process. Check out the 18 helpful tools in our divorce toolkit here.
Mistake No. 4: Communicating inefficiently with your attorney
If you want to keep costs in check, communicate efficiently with your divorce attorney. For example, instead of sending 10 emails throughout the day, send one email with 10 questions at the end of the day. Every time you contact your lawyer, you will be billed for that time – so refrain from hitting “send” whenever possible.
You may even consider scheduling a weekly meeting with the attorney and set aside any questions that need to be addressed for that time. That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate more frequently when necessary, but in the long run, weekly meetings can increase efficiency and reduce billable hours significantly.
Mistake No. 5: Not reviewing paperwork for accuracy
Carefully review any pleadings to ensure everything is accurate from a fact standpoint before they are filed on your behalf. This step can help reduce hourly fees related to correcting mistakes and inaccuracies later.
Mistake No. 6: Keeping things from your attorney
You should never lie to your doctor, and you should never lie to your divorce lawyer either. Lawyers can’t help you if they don’t know the truth, and you’ll only end up hurting yourself – and increasing the cost of your divorce – if you are not forthcoming.
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Mistake No. 7: Not communicating with your spouse
To the extent that it is possible, if you and your spouse can keep an open line of communication and agree upon some issues together, less time and money will be spent relying on lawyers to handle things for you.
Even if you can’t agree on the big issues – which your lawyer should be tackling anyway – there may be little things the two of you can sort out without getting attorneys involved.
In addition, delaying settling with your spouse due to anger and resentment can get expensive, too. Try to put your feelings aside, so your divorce doesn’t drag on, otherwise your attorney’s fees will continue to escalate.
Mistake No. 8: Not filing first
While it doesn’t make much difference if you don’t go to trial, filing for divorce first is usually advantageous if you DO go to trial. Preparing for a case is a lot more time consuming for lawyers when they have to present second at trial. If you file first, then your attorney will present first when your case goes to court.
Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2013, Aubrey Connatser and her team have firmly established the next in a line of great Texas divorce and family law firms. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and compassionate member of the Connatser Family Law team.
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