Ten Free Tips to Help Reduce the Cost of your Divorce or Other Family Law Matter
1. Find a good therapist or counselor.
If you don't already have one, consider a counselor to cope with the emotional issues that everyone goes through in these matters. Counseling does not mean there is something wrong with you. Every normal person whose marriage is ending or is having a continuing family law dispute and who must face and decide the issues raised in the process will tend to be depressed. But it's likely to be depression of the situational kind, rather than of the clinical kind. Don't expect your divorce lawyer to help resolve emotional issues. We really aren't trained to handle those matters. Having a good counselor will help you
to . . .
2. Stay calm.
When you come in for an appointment or call your lawyer, it is best if you can be calm and collected. This will allow you to be clear in your questions and will allow you to better understand the answers and advice we give you. To get and stay calm, it is useful
to . . .
3. Make a list.
Take a moment to go through the questions that you have and write them out before calling or coming to see us. This will help you clarify your questions, prioritize them and will allow you to listen to the answers without worrying about remembering the next question. A list will also help you to be focused on the tasks at hand and save lawyer time. Among the items on this list should be . . .
4. Goals and Expectations.
Set out what you feel are your expectations and goals. These should be simple, unconditional statements. Write them out as fast as you can, and don't be concerned that they may be over-the-top or contradictory. Just get them out. Then go over them and rank them from least important too most important. Eliminate those that no longer seem important. Share this list of goals and expectations with your lawyer. In this way, you communicate your expectations and any unreasonable or unlikely expectations can be discussed early on to avoid any misunderstandings between you and your lawyer. Another item on your list should be . . .
5. How can I help?
One of the areas of greatest cost in a family law matter is the assembling of information and documents. Your assistance in doing the leg work of getting this information to us can save substantial fees and costs. The more we or our staff has to do, the greater the bill. Ask us about collecting the documentation for your assets (bank statements, deeds, titles) and debts (mortgages, credit card statements, financial statements). If you are unsure how to go about getting this information, we can give you some suggestions and tips. Once you are onboard with helping, you should make sure to . . .
6. Work quickly.
Get the information and documents to us promptly and keep our staff informed of your progress. If you are having a problem with getting some document or statement, tell someone about it right away. Helping and working quickly allows you to . . .
7. Communicate with our staff.
While they cannot give legal advice, our paralegals can answer a lot of your questions. The status of your case, the general procedure of a family law or divorce action, communication with the other party and tips on helping us with your case, can be explained by our paralegals. They can also help you organize your thoughts and questions you have for your lawyer, as well as facilitate communication with us. Keep in mind though, while very helpful, our staff is not a substitute for communicating directly with a lawyer. Communicating with our staff will also assist you
in answering . . .
8. Billing questions.
During our initial consultation we will discuss a budget for the legal issues you bring. While we cannot guarantee this budget (unless we set a a flat fee or a a contingency fee), it will be a useful approximation of the costs involved in resolving your dispute. Each month you will receive a detailed billing showing what has been done and the fees charged. When you receive our statement, review it carefully and call our administrator whenever you have a question. Do not wait to the end to question the fee. In this way, both we and you can keep our eye on the budget we set and whether it needs to be adjusted. Asking questions of us means that you can . . .
9. Communicate with your lawyer.
We can best serve your needs if we have open communication with you. We honor your questions as a way to share our knowledge for effective problem solving in your case. Keep in mind that our schedules will often not allow us to speak with you each time you call. If you are not getting a quick response to your calls, you can: e-mail us a short question and we can get back to you between clients, you can schedule an appointment to come in, or you can schedule a telephonic appointment to ensure availability. Remember, while we may have other clients, you are our most important client. Asking questions, helping with your case and communicating with your lawyer will give you great insight to . . .
10. Know when to settle.
The most effective way to minimize the costs of your case is to work toward a reasonable settlement. This will not only save you financially, but psychologically and emotionally as well. Settlement also helps to establish the patterns and ground rules for future interaction and problem solving. Even if not all of the issues can be resolved, a partial settlement will save considerable costs. Either way, by starting with the goal of resolving the dispute amicably, the costs of your family law matter can be greatly reduced.