Keeping divorce fees down

Divorce cases can be extremely expensive and time consuming. This is primarily due to a combination of the emotional stress being experienced by the litigants and the hourly billing fee structure of divorce lawyers.

There was a time not too long ago when a person who had a legal problem would meet with a lawyer to discuss it. The lawyer would think about the problem, then quote a fee, and this was the cost of the case.

In the 1960’s, with the advent of automobile accidents and insurance claims, insurance companies found it more efficient to retain one law firm to handle all their claims, and the law firms agreed to bill the insurance companies for their time in defending the claim. Soon thereafter hourly billing became the standard for all civil practice.

Hourly billing allows a law firm to leverage their time and make more money. Law firms can budget for the number of cases they want, the hours they can bill on each case, and the profits they can make when they reach their budget goals. Hourly billing is now the standard fee structure in all civil lawsuits, which includes Family Law.

In a divorce, people litigate over the most intimate details of their personal lives and the lives of their children. No other kind of case will cause such an emotional response from a litigant like a divorce. A “win at all costs” attitude is often generated out of fear and uncertainty for their personal wellbeing and that of the children.

An attorney is ethically required to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing their client, but is not required to seek every possible legal advantage. The question is where to draw the line and, in divorce, it can be hard to find this point. Further, a lawyer billing a client hourly may be conflicted about where to draw this line and how long to fight.

The best way I have found to assist my clients in keeping their emotions in control (so they can make good, reasoned decisions) is to involve a therapist or coach during the divorce process. For my purposes, I need a client who can think rationally about their options and make decisions based on sound reason and sober analysis. When a client makes a decision based upon emotions, it is almost always bad.

I do not know how to counsel a client regarding emotional issues and divorce, nor am I qualified to do so, but a licensed marriage and family counselor or divorce coach is qualified. While this will be an additional cost, it will pale in comparison to the cost of litigation resulting from clients making emotional decisions. 

Divorce cases can be very expensive, but the proper use of a mental health professional can help keep the costs reasonable and provide an opportunity for a litigant to make informed, reason decisions.

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