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Tips on How to Save Money on a Family Law Attorney

Family Law cases can be expensive and overwhelming. Here are some helpful tips on how to maximize efficiency on your case and save money on attorneys’ fees:

  1. Consolidate communications (phone calls and emails). Consistent communication between a client and attorney is necessary in every case, but particularly in family law cases. With the amount of communication needed, attorneys’ fees can quickly mount. One of the best ways to minimize the cost of this communication is to wait until you have several questions and ask them in a single email or phone call, instead of communicating each time you have a single, non-emergent, question. Firing off email after email, or phone call after phone call, requires your attorney to stop, refocus, and bill on your case each time you reach out. Alternatively, consolidating your communication allows your attorney to focus on your particular case in-depth and communicate any necessary information or answers to you in a single billable event.
  1. Use email. Sometimes, your attorney may communicate that a phone call is the most efficient method of conveying information, and if so, heed their advice. However, in the absence of this direction, if you have the option of calling, writing a letter, or emailing your attorney, choose to email. Generally, emails allow your attorney to answer questions more quickly and concisely. Another advantage of emails is that they are easy to keep as a record and refer back if needed, which can minimize new work (and billing) when preparing for a hearing or drafting an argument later in your case.
  1. Respond timely. Your attorney will have many questions throughout the case. In order to better represent you, your attorney will need to know all of the facts. As your attorney works and studies your case, they will need you to answer specific questions. It is important that you quickly answer the questions that your attorney raises or quickly provide any requested documents or data. Timely responses allow your attorney to maintain their workflow and avoid multiple attempts (and multiple billing events) to contact you or to receive the information they’ve requested.
  1. Organize documents. Family law cases require an extensive exchange of documents. Many clients are surprised at the document exchange and how much work goes into it. One of the biggest wastes of fees is when your attorney (or their staff) must spend time organizing your documents or repeatedly following up with you to get all of the information they requested. When you provide your documents to your attorney, have them in order and organized in an easy-to-find format, and provide all of the documents requested. Find out if your attorney prefers electronic or hard copies of documents. Many lawyers operate on a “paperless” basis where every document is electronically stored. If this is the case, do not hand your attorney hundreds of pages, knowing that it will be necessary for the attorney to scan each document into their filing system (and thus bill you for this time). Instead, share your documents in organized electronic files through a cloud exchange system or a USB thumb drive.
  1. Don’t hide any facts. Most litigants in a family law case have done or said something in the past they wish they had not. Moreover, these cases typically involve parties who have an intimate knowledge of each other, including their deepest secrets and flaws. Strained relationships with children, allegations of domestic violence, mental health concerns, and substance abuse issues are commonly brought before the Court, and most cases have facts that are not favorable to the client. Do not hide these unfavorable facts from your attorney. These types of “bad evidence” are more than likely to come out whether you’ve prepared your attorney or not. You do not want your attorney to hear the unfavorable facts for the first time from the other side. Your attorney needs to hear and understand even the worst of facts in order to represent you properly and help you prepare for your day in Court.
  1. Keep emotions low. Divorce and custody cases are emotional. These cases impact the most important facets of our lives – our children and our finances. While having strong emotions is expected, when the emotion leads to decisions, costs go up. When negative emotion meshes with case decisions, the smallest issues transform into major fights. By de-escalating the conflict in your case, you can significantly reduce the amount of arguments brought before the Court and keep costs to a minimum.
  1. Communicate with the other side if possible. In some cases, communication between the parties is literally unsafe. If this is the case, take protective measures to assure your safety. However, in many cases, parties are still able to communicate. If you can communicate with the other party directly, do so. Do not run every tiny issue through attorneys. For example, if you would like to take your joint child to a family reunion, ask the other parent before turning to lawyers. Be careful not to sign any agreements without discussing it with your attorney, but most co-parenting or day-to-day matters should be handled without attorneys, if possible.
  1. Attend Mediation. Mediation is a settlement conference, typically run by a trained mediator or retired judge.  These conferences provide an opportunity for the parties and their attorneys to negotiate their disagreements.  With communication and the help of a mediator, many cases and issues are resolved without the need for an expensive court trial. Similarly, your attorney should provide a cost/benefit analysis of the issues in the case so that you can make informed decisions about what arguments are worth your resources and which may cost more than you would recover, even if you win. By reasonably settling as many issues as you can, you have the power to significantly reduce the overall cost of your family law case.
  1. Reasonable Goals. Unrealistic expectations set the stage for disastrous attorney-client relationships. Your attorney will have an idea of the likely outcome of your case, and your willingness to heed their advice about the process and outcomes can have a direct impact on the cost of your case. You will need to curb your expectations and understand that in a family law case, rarely does a side receive exactly what they desire. Most family cases end in a compromise that is negotiated under the advice of an attorney who has a good grasp of what your judge will likely order.
  1. Understand procedure. The internet is full of misleading and ill-advised information about family law, and relying on an inaccurate resource can actually increase the cost of your case and cause friction between you and your attorney if they have to explain why the information you obtained is incorrect. However, we also live in an age where most of the information we obtain is online. The State of Colorado maintains a website that includes information on procedures and basic forms. This bank of information is helpful, and you can learn the basic procedure, terms, and pleadings from this credible source. The website is courts.state.co.us. Alternatively, ask your attorney early on if they have a trusted resource that you could review to get familiar with the process and terminology that will be used in your case.

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Ben
Brightwell

Partner - Client Development

Colorado Springs

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