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A Practical View to Minimizing Cost during Divorce

In the mid-eighties, NBC aired a legal drama known as L.A. Law.  Although I was a newly minted lawyer, I enjoyed analyzing the issues and looking for flaws in the storylines.   I spent an hour each week watching glamorous lawyers in fancy offices resolve complex cases with minimal effort.  Regardless of the complexity of an issue, I knew I could count on the writer delivering a satisfactory outcome at the end of the show.

Unfortunately, this is not reality.  In the real world, clients come to lawyers with complex issues that have been brewing for years.  Whether a client is facing dissolution of a complex marriage or a messy custody case, it will take a great deal of time to fix the problem.  When you hire a lawyer to fix a problem, you are buying time or access to the lawyer during the pendency of your matter.  You are buying a service and you will do well to follow the lawyer’s advice.  There is no need for you to impress the lawyer with your knowledge of the law or the sharing of extraneous details.  Let the lawyer guide you through the process.  Be willing to listen and recognize that the lawyer is trying to give you an overview of the process based on years of experience.

As a practical matter, your case will be resolved either through litigation or settlement.   Negotiating a settlement can be emotionally draining and expensive. Often time, embattled parties will seek to solve emotional issues in the context of the legal process.  This process may involve a great deal of interaction between the clients and the lawyers, as the parties struggle to find solutions,   especially if the case involves issues of fault.  While it is costly to negotiate a complex agreement,  unfortunately, the cost of protracted litigation will be much greater.  The best way to minimize cost during divorce is to go into the process with an open mind.

  1. Go into the process with an open mind and a desire to reach an agreement;
  2. Be willing to make reasonable compromises;
  3. Try to keep your emotions under control.  If you are emotionally volatile, your case may involve more interaction with your lawyer to come up with strategies that work to your advantage;
  4. Do not use your lawyer as a therapist.  Hire a reputable therapist to discuss the emotional components of your case, which will be cheaper in the long run;
  5. Although you will have great access to your lawyer, resist the temptation to use your lawyer as a sounding board;
  6. Do not contact your lawyer for purposes of discussing issues that have nothing to do with the legal merits of your case;
  7.  Lawyer charge for review of emails and you will be billed for responses to your inquiries.  Therefore, do not “willy-nilly” email your lawyer unless it is absolutely necessary;
  8.  Trust your lawyer to contact you when it is necessary to involve you in the process;
  9. Make notes and ask questions during your office meetings if you have questions or concerns;
  10. Learn to trust the process and be willing to operate within the parameters set by the legal system.  You do not need to second guess your lawyer and confer with Attorney Google. Internet law is general information and is not legal advice. Legal advice is tailored to your individualized case and is based on the information you have shared with your lawyer.  If things are not moving as fast as “you” think they should be moving wait for your lawyer to explain. Remember, there is a process and every case that has come before you has probably gone through the same process;
  11. View litigation as the last resort.  Be willing to go to court only if the other side is being unreasonable and your lawyer feels you may do better in court;
  12. Trial preparation is costly and time-consuming.  It is emotionally draining and may leave you feeling bitter if things do not work out as desired.
  13. Cases evolve as the process continues.  Therefore, the great picture that you painted regarding your case may appear less rosy as the other side reveals his or her position through the exchange or documents, exhibits, etc.  Discovery helps a lawyer see what he or she is facing and will provide a more realistic picture concerning the merits of the case.
  14. There is no way to predict the outcome of a case.  Judges are usually assigned only a few days before trial and may have a limited amount of time to evaluate your case.  Each judge brings to the equation his or her interpretation of the law, as applied to the facts in a given case. If you do not have solid evidence or facts to support your position the outcome may be less than favorable.
  15. Be realistic about the merits of your case and trust your lawyer to help you make choices that are best for you. If you keep in mind this commonsense side of problem-solving, you may make it through the process with minimal emotional damage.

Finally, your life is not an episode of L.A. Law.  Your lawyer cannot make your problems magically disappear in an hour.  It has taken years for you to get to this place and it will take time to solve your issues.   Be patient and trust your lawyer to lead you along the path that is right for you.   Ask questions, when necessary, knowing that the information you share will shape the structure of your case.   Best of luck~