Hiring a divorce attorney can be stressful. Attorneys are expensive, and how can a client be sure that their time is being used wisely?
Clients endow significant trust to attorneys - especially in divorces. Divorce touches on the most intimate aspects of our lives: romantic relationships, children, and of course, personal finances.
A recent article from USA Today reports that the average cost of divorce in California with children involved is $26,300 - per person. Of course, a divorce from start to finish can cost significantly more or less than this amount.
The crux of many divorces is determining whether you are spending more on attorney fees than the fight is worth. You do not want to spend more than you need to in order obtain your desired result: detangling and moving on. Divorce litigation and negotiation decisions must me made in light of cost-benefit analysis.
So, how does one ensure that their attorney time is used wisely?
The more you fight, the more it costs.
The most fundamental rule in any divorce is that the more you and your ex disagree, the more expensive your divorce will be.
The question is: is the juice worth the squeeze? For example, if you and your ex are fighting over who keeps the pots and pans, you must remember that it is less expensive and more productive to simply buy new pots and pans that have your attorney send emails and make phone calls about this topic.
That said, there are times that you must fight in negotiation or in court for a just result in a divorce. You want to make sure that the cost of the fight is worth the potential benefits of winning and risk of losing.
If you have a budget for attorney fees, let your attorney know upfront.
A divorce attorney and client work together as a team. It is critical for both teammates to be completely transparent and honest with one another. If you have a budget for your attorney fees, let your attorney know upfront. A good divorce attorney should be honest and open about whether your goals are realistic for your budget and what legal tools you can afford.
This will also help the attorney understand your priorities and where to focus your resources. For example, not every case needs depositions and subpoenas, which can be expensive. Your attorney should let you know about your options, cost, and benefits or risk to strategic moves.
Going to court is extremely expensive.
Though sometimes necessary, prolonged litigation is rarely in the best interest of children or clients. It is extremely expensive and emotionally draining.
Settling a divorce without going to court is almost always the most cost-efficient option. A full day in court can be approximately 4-6 hours, and it generally takes 1-2 hours of attorney preparation time for every hour spent in court. Not only that, the court process involves many administrative fees: court filing fees, process servers, and messenger/attorney services.
Everything about this process adds up quick, and there are many settlement tools available to people without the courts. One example is using a private judge.
Make sure that you receive a monthly billing statement.
Divorce attorneys should provide you with an itemized monthly billing statement. You should always be aware of your trust account balance and feel informed about the work that's being done. You do not want to be hit with a big, unpredictable bill at the very end of your case.
Part of an attorney's duty is keeping the client informed about their matter. This includes about the financial status of the case. Review your attorney bills and ask questions when you have them. If an attorney does not send regular bills or gets to to defensive, this may be a red flag.
Be an organized and responsive client
It sounds almost too simple, but it makes a big difference: be an organized and responsive client.
Again, a divorce attorney and client work together as a team. A divorce attorney cannot do her job without participation and information from the client.
Part of the client's job is to make sure that the attorney has what she needs in order to make progress on your case. For example, part of the divorce process requires exchanging financial information with the other side. The more your attorney needs to follow up with you for information and the more questions your attorney has, the more expensive these otherwise simple tasks will be.
This does not mean you need to be on-call 24/7 - far from it. But being reasonably responsive and organized will go a long way in keeping your attorney time efficient.
The Law Office of Emily E. Rubenstein is a full service divorce and family law firm. We proudly serve Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Culver City, the South Bay, Glendale, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Encino and all of Los Angeles County.
Give us a call or check out our website:
(310) 750-0827 | www.emilyrubensteinlaw.com