by: Maury Beaulier, Attorney.
Simply by being organized and remaining actively involved in your case you may significantly reduce your legal fees. Your lawyer will provide you with a number of documents received during the proceeding. This may include correspondence, court notices or other legal documents. Not every document you receive will require you to respond. Additionally, you may not understand every document you receive. However, it is very important to review each piece of information and to contact your lawyer with any questions.
Keeping A File At Home
To facilitate communication with your lawyer, it is important that you maintain a complete file at your residence. You may wish to use an expandable file pocket with individual folders for different types of documents. The initial folders you should have would include a correspondence folder for letters and memos; a "Pleadings" folder for any legal documents (these documents usually include a court caption). Maintaining a separate and organized file at your residence will allow you to review documents with your attorney by telephone saving youre the time and expense of an in office appointment.
Organizing Documents and Filling Out Requested Forms
Even more important, during your legal proceeding you may be asked to provide documents, answer interrogatory questions or complete other court related forms. In providing the necessary information it is important that you understand what information is being requested and to follow your lawyers instructions to the letter in completing any forms. Do not hold back information. Assume that any information requested is necessary unless you are informed otherwise by your lawyer. If you provide disorganized or incomplete information, your attorney may spend a number of hours sorting through paperwork at an hourly rate. This can be avoided.
You should also keep a notebook of any issues and questions that you have for your attorney noting the date of your question or issue in your notebook. When you have a sufficient number of issues or questions, you should contact your attorney for answers. By waiting until you have a number of questions at one time, you may significantly reduce your legal fees. You should contact your attorney immediately in the event of any emergency. However, you should ask yourself, "Is this an emergency? And what can my lawyer do about it?" For example, a child is returned twenty minutes late from visitation is an unlikely emergency. Moreover, there is very little immediate impact your lawyer can have after the fact. Write down the information and provide to your lawyer at a convenient time.
Do Not Use Your Lawyer as a Therapist
Your lawyer is not a therapist and should not be used to unload your emotional issues. Though most lawyers, are trained to listen and lend a sympathetic ear, they are also on the clock and billing you for their time. You are far better off to find a professional therapist to help you through issues of separation, anger and resentment. They will help you to resolve those issue and may provide that help under an insurance policy or on a sliding fee scale.
Focus on the Legal Issues
Listen to your lawyer and focus on the legal issues of your case. All too often, divorce costs are driven up by emotional issues that do not relate to the legal issues. This can have a costly impact particularly when you spend hundreds of dollars on attorneys fees seeking items that are far less valuable and can be replaced. There are many examples where hundreds and even thousands of dollars have been spent to argue about couches, chairs, frying pans, dogs and cats. These items are replaceable. In property disputes, ask yourself "do I really want this item, or am I simply asking for it because it will hurt my spouse." Use the divorce process to "get out" not to "get even."
Don't Try to Cheat
Hiding assets and delaying the proceedings may result in higher legal fees. A Court has the ability to require you to pay your spouses legal costs if it believes that you have contributed unreasonably to the length and delay of the proceedings.