…Or How to Save for a Better Day
Divorce can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to reduce those monthly attorney fees and use that money to jumpstart a new beginning in your life.
I used to do billing for a law firm. I absolutely LOVED working with those folks! They were good people, despite what you hear about lawyers. One of the things I noticed was how they billed: By the tenth of an hour. So, if a client called to say, “Hey, I received your paperwork”, they would bill for that. That seems crazy, doesn’t it? However, the time spent talking with you about “received paperwork” is time they could work on making sure you are getting what is important to you. So, let’s talk about some ways to decrease the cost of those billable hours.
If you hire a lawyer, it’s important to understand your fees. Are you being billed by the hour or are you paying a flat fee? Will you be paying for photocopies of everything? How about long-distance phone calls or cost of faxes? Will you be paying extra for legal assistants to do research if there is a unique situation to your case?
If your lawyer offers a free consultation, try to get a majority of things discussed then. Gather all your questions and see if you can get them answered at that time. If you do hire a lawyer, limit their use; possibly even hire them for just a portion of your case. Or, do the paperwork yourself and ask them to just review it and make sure everything is correct.
Avoid contacting your lawyer to contact your spouse about issues. Settle as much as you can away from the lawyers. Remember, they are not there for your moral support. They do bill each time you talk with them. Do your own research, such as writing down all of your assets/liabilities/real estate holdings/pension/etc., to avoid having to paying your lawyer to do this.
Here are some alternatives to hiring a lawyer:
You could do the paperwork yourself. Most counties offer their divorce packets for a small fee, along with specific instructions on how to answer each question, how many copies to make of each document, and how to file. Also, the State of Wisconsin has an online Family Forms Assistant that helps you to prepare the beginning portion of your file. The downside to that is you still have to do the final documents, which can be difficult. As stated earlier, once you get your paperwork completed, you could pay a lawyer to review what you’ve done to make sure you’ve filled out everything properly.
Finally, you could hire a pro se company to prepare your documents for you. These companies are experienced with each county in their state, know the ins-and-outs of filing what documents and when, and know what’s acceptable to get approved in your county. Plus, it’s nice to have someone holding your hand through this stressful process, and someone to bounce ideas off of to get what’s most important to YOU in your final paperwork.
Remember, any money saved during this process is money that can be used for starting over. It’s a new beginning. You may have a new budget to work with, but try setting some money aside to do something special for yourself. Life is too short, to be unhappy.