Everyone Wants to Keep Costs Down
Something to keep in mind as you head forward from where you are now, is that everyone wants to try and keep fees in a manageable amount. As the person this is happening to, there is pretty clear incentive for you to try and keep costs under control, but we also have a pretty big interest in making sure your cost doesn’t spiral out of control. Most (good) attorneys do.
There is nothing to be gained from racking up exorbitant fees in your case. All it does is add stress to your day to day. Our job becomes harder as we try to balance getting work done on your case and also making sure we’re not billing against your rent money. We want to make sure we see you to the end of your case and not have it stall out because of a financial barrier. Getting you through this is how we measure our success – not just raking in billables.
We want you to get through this in a meaningful way, so here are some tips for keeping on top of costs.
Be Responsive! Be, Be, Responsive!
And organized! A court case is not something that just has to happen to you, but it’s something you can actively participate in and influence the outcome of. The more on the ball you are with following up with your legal team, the less reactive we have to be as a result of missing deadlines or not having important answers. Working on your case is a team effort, and you are the most important part! When you hire an attorney, their job is to manage the case direction and execute on your goals. It is representing YOUR interests. The attorney can’t just go forth and run the case without your input.
That’s why it’s important to be responsive to your legal team. We have deadlines imposed on us by the rules of the court, so when your legal team tells you that they need something done by a certain date, it’s not just for our own sake. A request for your Financial Statement, for example, can be due anywhere between 3 and 7 days from when the request was made. If you’re late in responding to us and getting the financial statement put together, the opposing side can start making demand letters that we have to respond to.
You have to remember – your case will proceed with or without you. It can’t be ignored.
Arson is the intentional act of burning something down, and you can 100% do this to your case – even if you didn’t mean to do it. There is no doubt that family court is stressful and emotional. Your kids could be on the line, or the hurt from your soon-to-be-ex can be so deep it can be hard to breathe. However, it is absolutely critical that you do your best to stay in control of your emotions and behavior.
The modern world has made the barrier to doing or saying something that can harm your case extremely low. Especially with social media and texting, it can be very, very easy (and tempting!) to say something to your soon-to-be-ex, but that is exactly how fires start. You say something, even when it’s well intentioned, and they take it personally. The absolute last thing you want to do is spend a morning in court arguing about the “tone” of a Facebook message you sent.
All of this goes double for intentional behaviors. Trying to hide information, acting out against a court order or the advice of your attorney, or acting in a way that is inflammatory is going to make everything harder. Not only can this undo significant work that was already done, it can result in a lot of new work that needs to be done to try and mitigate the problems. You don’t want to get caught in a situation where you are on the cusp of getting everything you wanted and it all being thrown away because you had been using recreational drugs and are going to fail a hair follicle test.
Whether it’s accidental or intentional, committing acts of Arson in your case is as good as burning money. Let your soon-to-be-ex be the one running around starting fires for their attorney to put out. You’ll have less stress.
Keeping Records and Staying Focused
One of the most common complaints that we get when it comes to invoicing is that people feel like we are going over information we already spoke about in previous meetings. We get it – no one wants to pay for something they’ve already gone over, but this is really easy to manage.
The first thing you can do is keep a daily journal or a calendar of events in your case. Every time something happens, just write down the summary of what happened. This helps in a few ways: First, you have a running record of your own that you can go back to that will help keep your memory fresh on what’s already been done, and what needs to be done next. Second, you can help your attorney with this later down the road if we need to track some timelines as it relates to evidence. It’s much easier to refer back to a written record you kept relating to things like whether or not the opposing party showed up for pickups with the kids on a certain day then trying to piece it together from memory. Third, it helps you set agendas for future meetings – sometimes you may need to revisit a subject or two, but you can have a better idea of how to tackle the issue from a new angle that you haven’t tried before.
On top of keeping your own notes, try not to take calls or meet with your legal team while you’re distracted. We would much rather push a meeting off for a day or so if it means that you will be able to put your undivided attention into the meeting, than go over a settlement proposal while the kids are running around, you’re driving, or you’re at work. Sometimes it’s unavoidable that you will be distracted, but divided attention can mean that you miss some details. A common outcome of that is that you give a verbal “yes,” to something, but when that goes out to the opposing party or gets put into a draft pleading, it’s not what you meant or intended. It’s ok to reschedule.
Think About What a “Win” Looks Like
Pyrrhus of Epirus was a Greek king and general – widely considered one of the most formidable opponents to the Roman Empire. In 279 BC, he met a Roman Army in battle on the southern coast of Italy. While Pyrrhus was able to win the fight, the casualties to his forces were so great he was later quoted as saying “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
Family law cases are absolutely littered with fights that end like this – each side digs in on the principle of something and keeps going until what they’ve given up has well exceeded what they were fighting over. It is not an exaggeration to say that we have seen people spend tens of thousands of dollars combined arguing over a $2,000 credit card bill. One side might eventually win, but what is the cost?
This will undoubtedly be one of the more difficult things to do in your case because it can sometimes mean putting aside objectively wrong behavior for now. Consider the following example:
You’ve just been granted a restraining order to get your soon-to-be-ex out of the house, but they have been given an hour by the court to collect personal items from the property – clothes, work computers, etc. For personal reasons, you choose not to be at the house while they are collecting their things. When you come back later that day, you find they’ve taken every plate and cup in the house with them.
Yes, your soon-to-be-ex is wrong here. Yes, they are being petty. Yes, they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. But think about the cost of responding to this legally: If you called your attorney about this one item, you’ll likely end up on the phone for 18 to 30 minutes and spend at least $100. This isn’t considering anything that might spin off of that conversation like sending a demand letter to the opposing counsel that they return the plates and cups. The amount of money that you would spend on that phone call will cover an entire replacement set of dinnerware (and then some) if you just head down to Target or WalMart instead.
To be clear, we aren’t saying that your soon-to-be-ex will just get away with it. We’re saying that you need to think about whether or not it’s a “win” to fight over the plates. It can be a much better use of your time, money, and energy to record that event in your journal and bundle it together for the next meeting you have with your legal team. That brings us to our final tip:
Bundle Issues Together
The more effectively you use time, the more cost-effective legal services will become. Every time something happens in your case, you need to make a decision on whether or not this is something that needs to be addressed now, or if it can wait until your next meeting. The truth is that most things can probably wait until a weekly check in meeting or your next scheduled call.
At O’Connor Family Law, we can help you work through a divorce because we’ve been there before. Our team will help you throughout each step of the process while protecting your rights and defending you from any attack from your spouse.