Usually the lawyers’ hourly rates are higher than those of the individual allied professionals, such as the financial expert, the mental health professional, or the child specialist. Rather than both attorneys trying to work out a parenting plan at their hourly rates combined – for instance, talking about whether Johnny should be picked up in the evening on Friday or whether it would be more beneficial to have Johnny picked up after school by one of the parents and taken to the other parent’s house – it would be less expensive to have a single mental health professional working with the parties. The mental health professional can then report back to the attorneys about what kind of parenting plan has been worked out with the parties.
Even if a parenting plan isn’t worked out, at least an effort has been made to vet the possibility with someone who’s not charging double the attorneys’ rates. It’s the same with financial issues – the lawyers can pour through tax returns and spreadsheets and try to analyze how to divide a property, but the analysis can be more efficiently handled by applying a financial person’s expertise and having them report their thought process to the attorneys. It doesn’t mean there’s no need for the attorneys to analyze the situation, but it does save hours because it might take a financial person much less time to analyze it.
Founding partner of McGaughey & Spirito in Redondo Beach, California, Joe Spirito has been practicing family law since 1982 and is currently serving as secretary of the Los Angeles County Bar’s Family Law Section.