Regardless of how long they have been practicing, most matrimonial professionals can cite more than a few instances where their clients have fought tooth and nail with their ex-spouse throughout their divorce, racking up legal bills, driving themselves into debt, and ruining their credit score. To avoid the common financial pitfalls of divorce, each litigant must follow these simple rules:
1. Don’t fight for the sake of
Sure, you have every right to be mad at your spouse for cheating or ending your marriage, but that doesn’t mean you should contest every single aspect of the divorce. Instead of litigating over minor issues, focus your attention and energy on child custody or support, alimony, and marital properties.
In addition to appearing in court to advocate on your behalf, your attorney will spend countless hours researching, drafting, filing, and serving motions and petitions supporting your arguments. A great deal of work goes on behind the scenes that most clients do not realize. A lawyer simply doesn’t just show up to court and send a few letters to the opposing counsel. By spending precious time and resources on the issues that really matter, you will save a great deal of money in legal fees and avoid the stress associated with intense litigation.
2. Understand fee structures.
Each law firm will have different fee structures. For instance, at Brian D. Perskin & Associates, P.C., we have both flat fee retainers, as well as hourly retainers. Pricing always varies on a case by case basis, but all of our attorneys generally bill different hourly rates depending on their level of experience and position within the firm. This provides us with opportunity to work with our clients to prevent astronomical legal fees.
It is also important to know what services your lawyer can bill you for. Will you be charged for copies made or faxes sent? What about travel time to and from court? Is there an extra fee for using a process server? All of these things should be outlined in a proposed retainer agreement, and a thorough itemization of services rendered should be included in every monthly billing statement you receive.
3. Take a step back and breathe.
It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is a New York divorce or family law action, and it is even easier to vent or confide in your attorney. However, it is best to caution against this kind of behavior if you’re striving to keep your legal fees low. Depending on the stipulations of your retainer agreement, you lawyer may bill you for each meeting, phone call, or slew of emails. Before contacting your attorney each time there is a minor bump in the road, take a step back and breathe. Evaluate the situation and process any new information, then decide whether or not this issue is really of your lawyer’s concern, or if you benefit from talking to a friend, family member, or therapist.
4. Review all documents.
Keeping abreast on your case by reviewing all documents received from your attorney will help you save money. This includes correspondence, court filings, orders and stipulations, and even your monthly invoice. By knowing the progress your divorce or family law action, you can avoid calling or emailing your lawyer for status updates. Additionally, keeping a record of all documents and correspondence will help you review and better understand your monthly invoice, and will provide a basis for fee disputes if you believe you are being overcharged.
5. Mediation vs. Settlement vs.
No two divorce cases are the same, therefore, there is no strict guideline for how an action will play out. Contested matters will typically veer towards litigation with settlement negotiations, and parties involved in uncontested divorces won’t have to set foot inside of a court room. Mediation is a great option for those who wish to separate from their spouse, but want to settle disagreements without having to appear in front of a judge.
Deciding which course of action to take will give you a better idea of what your legal fees may be. Granted, this will only provide a general amount, but it’s always good to have a ballpark figure in mind before entering a matrimonial or family law matter in New York City.
Divorce and child custody matters are stressful endeavors, and you shouldn’t have to worry that your legal action will send you into a downward spiral of financial instability. At Brian D. Perskin & Associates, P.C., we strive to make it our goal to work with our clients to develop payment plans and fee structures that best fit their needs and finances. For more information on New York matrimonial and family law cases, call us at 718-875-7584 or 212-355-0887 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.