Divorce is rarely an inexpensive endeavor, and despite the tired, old punch-line that “it’s worth it,” there may be avenues for cost-conscious clients to minimize or avoid some divorce-related expenses. According to a number of Cordell & Cordell’s practice leaders, preparation, perspective and patience are three keys to potential cost savings.
Preparation is critical when it comes to issues such as maintenance, child support and property division. A significant amount of litigation focuses on these issues, and a current, accessible and well-organized set of documents can reduce the amount of attorney or paralegal time spent chasing, deciphering and organizing what is needed to answer discovery and prepare for hearings.
Jason Hopper, a Litigation Manager in Cordell & Cordell’s Indianapolis office says, “the best advice I have for clients seeking to keep their costs down is to maintain and provide to their attorney as early as possible a set of detailed records for issues pertinent to their case.”
Hopper said that repeated calls to clients to provide documentation, clarify figures that may have been casually rounded up or down or ascertain precise titling information on accounts or other property cause clients to incur greater expense.
And, Hopper adds, if the client cannot or will not provide necessary financial or other asset information, the “attorney is required to verify information by way of a non-party request directly to the record holder.” This creates not only legal fees, but in many cases filing and service of process fees as well.
Good record keeping doesn’t apply to just financial or asset issues, either. In many cases, parents are asked to keep journals and overnight calendars that track the number of times that parent has custody of the kids and document anything noteworthy such as hygiene, appearance, incidents and the like. Maintaining records of job searches may also be relevant to support issues and the quick production of these records can save time and money.
Perspective is a must when going through a divorce. Although it is likely the most personal ordeal that you will encounter, it is crucial to remember that the process itself is little more than a business function to allocate resources and establish certain ground rules for shared parenting. While your attorney should be personally supportive (in a professional fashion), he or she is not a substitute for a counselor or psychologist. Chris LaFrance, a Litigation Manager in Cordell & Cordell’s Tampa office has this suggestion, “(k)eep, read and re-read letters sent, keep notes on conversations – this avoids repeat conversation and unnecessary added expense. Have bullet points of issues to address with your attorney. If your attorney initiates communication, respond with information necessary to the inquiry. This keeps the conversation focused and avoids turning the meeting into a therapy session.”
Hopper suggests “having a good appreciation for the principle of ‘return on investment’ for your legal battle. A good attorney can empathize for why a certain issue is important to a client given the history of a case but can also give advice to the client on picking which battles to fight, focusing on those which provide the client the greatest return on investment rather than litigating each and every issue which surfaces. Does it make financial sense to litigate your wife’s request for $1,000 in attorney fees when you will pay your attorney $750 just to argue the issue?” Echoing these sentiments, LaFrance offers, “If affairs or other fault issues are not relevant, do not dwell on those facts. If the goal is to punish, recognize that is not a remedy that the court can award.”
Erica Gittings, a Litigation Manager in Cordell & Cordell’s Madison, Wisconsin office urges clients to exercise patience before picking up the phone or emailing counsel. “Have a waiting period after a dispute with your spouse before you email or call your attorney. This way you can analyze with a clear head whether this is an issue that will make a difference in your case.” LaFrance adds “anger will lead to bad decisions and deplete funds.” Your attorney is a resource for obtaining a just litigation outcome, not a weapon to be deployed in rage or frustration.
Through careful preparation, having a little perspective and exercising some patience, your divorce case may generate a little less expense and a little more piece of mind. In trying times, both can be very valuable commodities.
Yale L. Hollander is the executive editor of Men’s Divorce where he actively develops and curates content of interest to men dealing with issues related to divorce. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Missouri at Columbia and a juris doctor degree from Oklahoma City University. He has been licensed to practice law in the states of Georgia, Missouri and North Carolina.
In addition to his editorial duties, he also oversees practice quality and attorney development for the law firm Cordell & Cordell, maintaining an integral role in promoting the firm’s high standards for all facets of legal services. Prior to joining Cordell & Cordell, he spent several years in active litigation practice, law firm management and legal compliance consulting.
His articles have appeared in a number of legal and trade publications and he was also a weekly columnist for the St. Louis Globe Democrat. He is the married father of two daughters.