May 22, 2017

So, You Are Getting Divorced: Part II

Categories: Divorce

Considerations on the Cost of Legal and Professional Services

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In this article I address positive things you can do to minimize your costs and expenses, and maximize quality of services.

The Good News

There are many things that can be done to help limit the costs that will be incurred.

1. Commit, as a couple, to cooperate with each other in navigating this dangerous ground. This may require counseling with a therapist to help resolve negative emotional issues before working on the divorce itself.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “If you give me six hours to chop down the tree, I will spend the first three sharpening my axe.” This is a oft cited metaphor that recognizes a principle: Time spent preparing for a task is more productive than time spent doing the task. Additionally, it is less strenuous to hone the axe or saw than it is to use it.

If you have a good relationship with your spouse already, you already have the saw sharpened, and your task should be less daunting – and expensive.

2. Prepare for the task at hand by doing your due diligence. Find out about what services are available. Research collaborative law. It is a process that helps keep both parties in control of the process. Interview enough professionals for you to feel comfortable and confident that they both know what they are doing and be able to communicate with you openly, honestly and effectively.

Once you have selected the professionals who will serve you, surrender to their skill and knowledge. This does NOT mean that you simply turn everything over to them and hope for the best. It does mean that you trust their advice, and their awareness of how the process itself unfolds.

3. Gather the information you are asked to provide quickly and effectively. Spend your time organizing your documents so you do not need to pay your professional to organize it for you. If you bring in your documents in a grocery bag, all thrown together, your divorce will cost you more in professional fees.

4. Use your professional’s time judiciously. Do not call every day to talk about how long this is taking, or to complain about your spouse. But neither should you refuse to return their phone calls or email, or not share important information with them as soon as you become aware of it. There is a reasonable balance that requires mindfulness to reach.

5. Educate yourself while you are going through the process. I used to hear must make our most important decisions with insufficient information. Now it is more true we must make our most important decisions with a glut of information that may be difficult to decipher.

6. Dangerous Opportunity. Most of us view divorce as dangerous. Few see it as an opportunity. It is easy to allow helpless to become dysfunctional. Wise people recognize the opportunity this provides.

Once we acknowledge complicity, we are immediately empowered to take charge of the things we must do. I have met many people who have told me divorce was the best thing that ever happened to them. Far from being destroyed, they blossomed.

Whether this time is characterized by danger, or by opportunity, is your choice.
Ironically, the tuition for opportunity is usually lower than is the tuition for danger.

7. Ask your professionals to help you to keep track of the overall costs and progress. Therapists time is billed in measured sessions of one or two hours. Consequently, their time is accumulated in smaller blocks that can be managed as you go. Your financial specialist will spend time meeting with you to gather the information and talk about your concerns in measured blocks. However, they may need to spend larger blocks of time to assemble your document information into computer programs, run the data and assess it, and prepare reports for you and your team. Ask them to talk about how their fees are incurred, and how you will be expected to pay for services.

Attorney time includes measured time to meet and discuss your case with you and time apart from you while they gather data, prepare for upcoming settlement conferences, or discussing your case with your souse’s attorney or the other professionals. Consequently, attorney fees can accumulate rapidly and then go for long periods without being incurred.

On first impression couples think they can’t afford to hire so many professionals. In reality, there are multiple facets of your case that must be completed before the final decree is reached. By having a third party neutral professional division of services you actually save cost. First, you get the specific expertise of each neutral professional. Second, you pay for neutral professionals by splitting one fee, rather each paying a separate fee. Third, the work of the neutral professionals maybe put directly into the final documents, with little additional work by the attorneys.

Parties choose which attorney to draft the final documents. Each attorney reviews and approves them for form and substance, and reviews and discusses them with their respective client before the parties actually sign them. In a contested trial, each attorney would be drafting separate document proposals for review and approval by a judge.

In the collaborative law model, there is an efficient use of time. Just as a building contractor uses subcontractors on specialty issues, so does the collaborative process save you time and expense.

Recommendation:

As important as getting the job done at the lowest cost is getting the job done right the first time. Oversights, omissions and cutting corners often result in the need for do-overs.

Bruce PeckABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bruce Peck
Attorney

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at www.BrucePeckLawOffice.com

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May 15, 2017

Family Specialist: Co-Parenting after Divorce

Categories: Divorce

I once heard that parenting books are one of the largest segments in non-fiction publishing.  Everyone apparently thinks they have tips and ideas to help others parent.  As a collaborative divorce attorney, clients often seek guidance and support in co-parenting Continue reading…

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May 8, 2017

Stick and Stones May Break My Bones, But Names Will Never Hurt Me

Remember hearing that as a child?  I do.  I said it.  I believed it.  And then I didn’t.  Names DO hurt, even if they aren’t “really bad, mean names.”  They can burn a memory into your brain that can haunt Continue reading…

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May 1, 2017

When Families are Unsupportive Part 2

Categories: Divorce

This is the second of our two part blog series on unsupportive families during divorce. The first dealt with the challenges of when family is having a difficult time letting an ex go, which can be read here. Here we Continue reading…

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April 24, 2017

When Families are Unsupportive Part 1

Categories: Divorce

Families can be particular unsupportive in one of two ways – the first when they truly care for your spouse and are having a difficult time letting them go as part of their family, and second they may not be Continue reading…

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April 17, 2017

The High Road to Recovery

Categories: Divorce

My principle livelihood has been as a divorce lawyer. Many people consider this to be a dirty job, either because the people we work with have dirty lives, or because the way attorneys who work with them are themselves dirty. Continue reading…

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October 4, 2016

Leaving Litigation Behind

A collaborative law colleague recently wrote a lovely piece in the Boston Globe describing his reasons for leaving his litigation practice behind and representing clients only in alternative dispute resolution processes. His article resonated greatly with me. I too left Continue reading…

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October 3, 2016

Teaching Your Kids About Money – The Early Years

What are you teaching your children that will best prepare them for a successful adulthood? To be polite and say thank you? To believe in themselves? How about that if they save 15% of every check they ever earn, they Continue reading…

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September 30, 2016

We Are More Alike, Than We Are Unalike – Maya Angelou

My family is going through Olympic withdrawal.  Well, O.K., not really.  But we watched the events we were interested in and rooted for Team U.S.A.  Of course, Michael Phelps stole the show, and Ryan Lochte stole the…well, let’s not go Continue reading…

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September 29, 2016

A Few Thoughts On Death and Divorce

Categories: Divorce

I have been fortunate enough to make it into my later in life years before experiencing the death of family and friends close to me. My parents were the first losses from my immediate family, followed by an older sister. Continue reading…

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