Finances often top the list of divorce worries, with divorce attorney fees being a major (and understandable) concern. Divorce attorneys usually charge an hourly rate of anywhere from $150-$500 per hour, and some bill in increments (commonly 6 or 12 minute increments). That means that even if the service takes only a minute or two of their time, they'll charge you for six or even twelve minutes. If you call every day, your monthly charge just for phone calls can total over $1,000. If the process drags on for a year, you'll pay serious bucks just for those brief daily calls. But don't worry, we have some tips that will help keep down expenses when it comes to legal fees charged by your divorce attorney.
Get a Written Fee Agreement
Most divorce attorneys charge by the hour and require a deposit at the beginning of their service. Fees are then charged against the retainer until it is depleted. When this happens, the client becomes responsible for any extra charges incurred.
It is imperative that you obtain a written fee agreement that outlines the exact financial terms of the representation. Without one, you may find yourself forking out money for hidden expenses or your attorney’s daily lunch trip to the local diner.
Attempt to Negotiate a Settlement Without the Help of Your Attorney
If you and your spouse are able to communicate, it is in your best interest to negotiate a settlement agreement and come to terms with the division of any marital property. This will not only keep down the expense of using an attorney, but also the expense of court-ordered mediation.
A Cheap Attorney Isn't Always a Good Attorney
It’s good to be frugal when dealing with a divorce attorney, but it’s a mistake to think you are going to save money by hiring an attorney who only charges a small fee or a flat fee. It's even worse to hire an attorney with very little experience who will work for less. If they've just graduated from law school, let them get their experience elsewhere, not with you!
Your objective should be to achieve a reasonable settlement with your spouse. To accomplish this, you need an experienced attorney who might cost a bit more, but will end up saving you money when all is said and done.
Don't Withhold Information Your Attorney Needs
Stalling tactics like not turning over documents requested by your attorney and the other side only end up costing you more money. There will need to be more communication between you and your attorney and between your attorney and your spouse's attorney. During the discovery phase, turn over documents requested and save yourself time and money.
Don't Use Your Attorney as a Therapist
Your attorney is your legal representative, not your emotional sounding board. If you are calling your attorney every time you feel down or every time your ex does something to anger you, you are increasing the cost of that attorney. Get a good therapist, let your healthcare insurance pay for your visits, and leave the emotional junk out of the legal process.
Know Everything Your Attorney Does
You will be charged by your attorney for every call with either you or anyone else connected to your case. You will be charged for every written communication regarding your case. Make sure your attorney sends you a monthly, itemized accounting of everything you are billed for. You want dates and names of phone calls and written correspondence. Keeping track will save on fees!