Unfortunately, divorce can be expensive. Legal fees can be high especially when the parties are unwilling to compromise and, instead, insist on fighting over every issue. Some people look to save money by looking for the cheapest divorce attorney. However, most times that will end up costing more money than if you paid market rates for an experienced attorney.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for when hiring a divorce attorney. That’s not to say that the lawyer with the highest hourly rate will give you the best representation. Often, the attorneys with the highest hourly rates happen to be experts in dragging the case out ad infinitum so as to extract as much money from you as possible. If you are talking to someone whose fees are well below the range of attorneys that were recommended to you, there is probably a reason for it in that he or she doesn’t have the knowledge and skills you need to efficiently resolve your divorce. Somewhere in the middle is the attorney that may cost more than you want to pay but provides you with the knowledge and experience you need to save you money in the end.
What Should You Look for in a Divorce Attorney?
You want a divorce attorney who is a highly experienced and reputable lawyer with good recommendations. That does not mean you should depend on internet reviews such as Avvo or Google where unreasonable parties frequently vent their complaints about a lawyer who could not satisfy his or her unreasonable demands. Instead, you should rely on recommendations from people who have worked with an attorney either professionally (accountants and financial advisors are good examples) or personally by helping them resolve their marital issues. It’s also important to research attorneys online to read what they say on their website, learn how many years they have been in practice as a matrimonial attorney, and determine whether they have written or spoken publicly on relevant topics. Additionally, whether they are active in legal organizations and/or have been recognized by their peers with awards can help you decide on who should represent you in your divorce.
During your initial consultation, you should ask your attorney about his or her experience handling matters and clients like you. The attorney you would want to hire will provide you with a balanced reality of your case, meaning, he or she will discuss the pros and cons of various strategies you may want to take in proceeding with your divorce. It’s also important to feel comfortable with the attorney you are considering. Does he or she answer your questions clearly and concisely, and ask good questions about or offer you good strategies to resolve your situation? Have you discussed not only his or her fees but what factors may affect the cost of your matter and your expectations and priorities?
As a general rule, attorneys should not charge for an initial consultation. An attorney’s investment of a few hours to learn about your case, discuss strategy, and how he or she can help you resolve it can speak volumes as to whether he or she is the right lawyer for you.
Between your research, your initial consultation, and your instincts, you should know whether the attorney you are considering is the right attorney to represent you in your divorce.
How Can an Unskilled Divorce Attorney Cost You Money?
There are many ways an inexperienced less expensive attorney can cost you time and money:
- Delays due to missed deadlines and incorrect paperwork
- Lost opportunities to negotiate a timely settlement
- Lack of knowledge of alternative solutions to achieve your goals
- Poor drafting of agreements that could result in legal challenges
- Failure to close loopholes or consider tax ramifications of a settlement
A skilled divorce attorney can keep legal fees down by understanding different options for resolving conflicts, providing realistic assessments of the costs of litigating vs settling, and negotiating and drafting separation and divorce agreements that save money on taxes and are tightly written to avoid post-judgment challenges and disputes.
Experienced and reputable attorneys cost more money because they have the skills to help you achieve a positive and efficient outcome in your case.
If you are considering divorce, contact us for a consultation.