One of the things that amazes me about the divorce process is how expensive it is. Let’s start with the lawyer’s hourly rates. Who charges like that? Your plumber might charge about $150/hour. The car mechanic might charge about the same, or a little less. Therapists charge a lot, and many don’t take insurance. Doctors often charge more, but they do take health insurance.
But I don’t know any other service provider who works with individuals who charge $400, $500, maybe even $1,000/hour – with no kind of insurance coverage. So ask yourself, whose kids do you want to put through college — yours or your attorney’s?
The New York Times had a lovely article last week saying that the best way to reduce divorce costs is not to litigate. Mediation and collaborative law are much less expensive. But some folks are married to people who just want to fight. Mediation isn’t always appropriate in high-conflict situations. So then what do you do?
Here are a few tips for keeping the costs down, even when you can’t mediate your divorce:
- DO think hard and long about your priorities. What are you most concerned about? Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you find yourself getting sucked into the vortex of conflict, as yourself whether the issue is really worth fighting over.
- DO think long and hard about what you want and need. Do you need an aggressive advocate because your ex is going to walk all over you? Or do you need an advocate who will recognize that you have to co-parent with your ex and try to preserve whatever is left of the relationship?
- DO find an attorney who takes the time to listen to you and advocate for your needs (not theirs). Let’s face it – lawyers make more money the longer the conflict draws out. Some will take advantage of that, but most will want to help you resolve the case as soon as possible.
- DO find an attorney who concentrates most of their practice on family law. Ask about their approach – are they very aggressive? Very conciliatory? Are they more of a negotiator or a litigator?
- DON’T use your lawyer as a therapist. First of all, she’s probably not good at it. Secondly, lawyers charge more. Be as focused as you can when talking to your attorney. Treat them like the IRS – tell them what they need to know – no more, no less.
- DON’T try to look good to your lawyer. Tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly truth. They can help you figure out how to present “bad facts” – but not if they get blindsided. Let them know what your ex would say about you.
These are just a few ideas. Do you have more? I’d love to hear them!