How to Save Money on Family Law Legal Fees
Roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, so there’s a good chance that either you or someone you love will navigate the difficulties involved in divorce. If you’re wondering whether or not you need divorce attorney, then it will likely depend on individual circumstances and whether or not it is a high-conflict situation. If you do hire an attorney, here are a few tips on how to save money on family law legal fees.
Approach your divorce as a business transaction. This may sound impossible, especially with emotions running on overdrive, but it may help save you significant money when it comes to legal fees. Washington state divorces are “no fault”, meaning that it does not matter who wanted the divorce or if infidelity was involved. Washington is also a community property state, meaning that the assets and debts accumulated during the marriage are divided equitably between the spouses. In most cases, the split is close to equal, but Judges do have discretion to deviate for certain factors.
Child support is a formula. Unless you and the other parent come to an agreement, child support is based on a preexisting formula and each spouse contributes to child support based on their income. The Court can deviate from the formula in certain situations. Even if you do come to an agreement, keep in mind that there is also a possibility that the other parent may later file to modify the amount. Judges also have some discretion in this area and your attorney can help you navigate this issue.
Spousal maintenance or alimony. Alimony is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The law is generally the need of the receiving spouse and the ability for the other spouse to pay. The length of the marriage is very important to analyze in cases with spousal maintenance.
Label and organize exhibits. If your lawyer asks you to submit screenshots of texts or copies of documents, please label them. It takes time for staff to sort through them, convert to usable formats, and organize them and this may be something you are able to do for free in your own time. It’s best to email these documents instead of texting. You can also download a free program like CutePDF to “print” your documents into a PDF format, or for a few dollars, download an app like Genius Scan to scan documents into a PDF format from your smart phone.
Talk to the paralegal. If you have simple, non-legal questions or want to relay information, talk to the paralegal. The hourly rate for speaking to the paralegal instead of the attorney is usually much lower. If a legal question is involved, the paralegal will inform you that they cannot offer legal advice and your message will be passed up to the attorney to address. If the attorney is not available, the paralegal may be able to call you back with the information from the attorney.
Seek out a professional counselor or talk to a trusted friend for non-legal matters. Divorce is difficult, we get it, and there are a lot of attorneys who truly care. However, your attorney and their staff bill for the hours that they work on your case to keep the lights on, and this includes sorting through long emails and taking phone calls. Because Washington is a no-fault divorce and community property state, much of the emotional portions aren’t considered by the courts when you negotiate settlement. Seeking an outlet like a counselor or an empathetic friend can provide the listening ear you need to make it through this difficult time while saving you money on your legal fees. Professional counseling can often help you navigate your divorce with a better mindset, reduce stress, and make goals to look forward to for moving forward.
Don’t pick petty fights and don’t respond to their attempts to pick fights. Discourtesy toward your spouse is unproductive and will likely end up in inflated legal costs to navigate. This also doesn’t look good for you in court. Do not criticize or share inappropriate details of conflict with your children or around them, and as much as you may not feel like it, encourage your children to have positive contact with the other parent. Always be courteous in communication.
Unless you’ve discussed it with your attorney, do not negotiate directly with your soon-to-be-ex. Doing so may have negative legal consequences that you might not be able to anticipate. If you have children, it’s best to only communicate with your soon-to-be-ex about the health, safety, and welfare of your child or children and leave the remaining portions of the divorce up to your attorney. If you do not have children and it is high-conflict, consider going no-contact with them and tell your attorney to do the communication.
Take Notes. Take notes during the process and document anything that may seem important. Memories are not perfect, so documenting will bring peace-of-mind when it comes to recalling important details of the matters in your case. Taking notes also keeps you organized for when you talk with your attorney.
Mediation and Settlement Outside of Court. Trial is very expensive, and oftentimes a skilled mediator can help both sides focus on realistic expectations for what a judge would likely recommend anyway. Mediation can also be a litmus test to see where each side is willing to negotiate and hopefully find something that both sides are okay to live with. There are no winners in a divorce and there will always be things both sides will be unhappy about. A mediator can help iron out a fair compromise.
If you’re looking for a family law lawyer in the Spokane or Coeur d’Alene area, we would love to hear from you. Call our office or click the link to schedule a consultation.
All information, content, and materials on this website are for general purposes only and do not constitute as legal advice. Only an attorney can provide legal analysis for your individual matter. Filling out a contact form does not establish an attorney-client relationship.