Considerations on the Cost of Legal and Professional Services
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.
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.Tagged with: healthy divorce • peaceful divorce • productive conflict resolution