Divorce can be expensive and time-consuming. By doing a little bit of research before diving into the process and keeping a few key tips in mind, you can save time and money during your divorce.
When you are thinking about choosing a lawyer to represent you during the divorce process, choose an attorney that fits your needs. Divorce attorneys often specialize in specific areas. Identify what you need in an attorney and select an attorney that fits your needs and is affordable to you. Your attorney should make you feel comfortable, be responsive, and be able to explain the system in a way that you understand. When you hire an attorney, ensure that you understand the contract and how that attorney and his or her staff will bill you. If you have questions about how your attorney will charge you, ask those questions upfront before you receive your first bill. By understanding the billing process, you can effectively utilize your attorney’s time.
Most lawyers are not trained as counselors, therapists or psychologists. Use your attorney for legal advice and strategy, not for therapy. While your attorney will be happy to bill you for every phone call, meeting and email that involves your emotional issues, this may not be the best use of your dollars or your attorney’s time, especially if your attorney has a high hourly rate. That being said, divorce is an emotional process. Seeing a counselor or therapist during your divorce may be necessary for you and may help ease the anxiety that comes with divorce. Let your attorney know if you feel you should see a therapist and ask for recommendations.
Be honest with your attorney. You can end up spending thousands of unnecessary dollars by omitting key information that your attorney should know. Dishonesty or lack of transparency with your attorney can waste time, waste money, and be detrimental to the outcome of your case. Even if there are sordid facts in your case, your attorney should know about them so she may adequately prepare to advocate for you. Remember, there is probably nothing that a seasoned family law attorney has not heard.
Identify your goals. Talk to your attorney about the reality of what you want the final outcome of your case to be. Knowing what you want upfront can save you time and money. Ask your attorney what you can do to best achieve your goals. Constantly changing your mind or shifting the focus of your case can waste valuable dollars and make the divorce process take much longer than necessary.
Do not lose sight of the forest from the trees during the divorce process. Remain focused on your goal and pick your battles. Not every disagreement with your spouse may need to be played out in court or require hours of time from your attorney. Remember that if you can communicate with your spouse cordially throughout the process, or perhaps even come to a settlement agreement with your spouse, you may not only save valuable time but also valuable dollars.
Locate and gather key financial records early on in your case or, better yet, before your first meeting with your attorney. More likely than not, your attorney will need these key documents. If your attorney asks you to fill out an inventory worksheet or list your financial information, do so promptly. The more time your attorney or his/her staff spend trying to track you down and pry information from you, the more time and money you will waste. Clients who often have the most expeditious divorces are those that understand their financial situation, can deliver to their attorney information when requested and can keep a mature, amicable relationship with their spouse throughout the process.
Working with your spouse throughout the divorce process if possible, openly communicating with your attorney, and keeping your goals in focus will save you time and money during your divorce.
Associate Ellen K. Mabry, practice with the Houston firm of Short·Carter·Morris.
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