Clients often ask how can I minimize my legal fees during my divorce. While you cannot control how unreasonable your spouse is, how antagonistic your spouse’s attorney is or even how long you wait in court for your case to be called, you do control the flow of relevant information to your attorney. The way you educate your attorney about the facts of your case is directly related to the size of your legal bill.
So, how can you communicate with your attorney to reduce your legal fees during your divorce?
- First and foremost, be honest with your attorney. No matter how painful, embarrassing, or abhorrent, it is far better for me to hear the damaging or embarrassing facts directly from you in the privacy of my office, then in court or a conference with a judge. Properly prepared and armed with the facts, a weakness can be re-cast as a strength in the same way that martial artists are taught to channel their opponents’ energy against them. Rest assured, any negative facts about you will come out during your divorce; your spouse will have no problem disclosing facts that discredit you.
- Organize your papers and records. You will need to provide your attorney with copies of your tax returns, bank and investment statements and our relevant financial records. Don’t deliver them lose and thrown in a shopping bag. Remember, in most cases, you are paying your attorney by the hour. It makes little sense to make your attorney waste billable time by sorting through your unorganized papers.
On a related note, don’t write your attorney notes on original copies of the documents. The notes will have to be redacted when used in the litigation. If you make notes, do it on copies of the documents or on post its annexed to the papers.
- Communicate with your attorney. Keep your attorney informed about relevant events regarding your case. If your spouse fails to make a support payment, misses his/her parenting time with the children or does something else relevant to the case, tell me about it. I am always shocked that the very client, who repeatedly calls me to just generally gripe about their spouse or to get daily case updates, somehow neglects to tell me about some relevant change in circumstances.
On the other hand, you should not use your attorney as a therapist. Often, clients call their attorney just to let off steam or to vent after a bad encounter with their spouse. Most attorneys are not trained as mental health providers. It would be more beneficial and far more economical to speak with a skilled therapist about your psychological wounds.
- Be responsive. Provide your attorney with whatever information is requested of you If your attorney has to call you three or four times to sign an affidavit or to produce a document, you can’t really complain about the multiple time charges on your bill.
By being open, honest, organized and responsive in your communications with your attorney, you can reduce the amount of time your attorney has to spend on working on your case, and, as a result, your minimize legal bill.