How to Manage Your Divorce Lawyer's Fees and Speed the Process

Your actions and inactions will impact the amount of time required to complete your case, regardless of whether it is a basic conventional divorce or a high net worth matter. The following is a list of actions that may lessen the time required to complete your case by many months:

  • Retain a divorce lawyer you respect professionally
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Compromise on appropriate issues
  • Retain a divorce lawyer who shares your general philosophy about the issues and litigation in general
  • Don’t fight issues as a matter of “principle”
  • Determine objectives early and avoid changing positions, if at all possible
  • Cooperate with your divorce lawyer and provide the requested documents and information ASAP
  • Follow your divorce lawyer’s advice or consider finding a different lawyer
  • View decisions about financial matters as “business decisions”
  • Require your divorce lawyer to address each issue on a cost-benefit basis - Is it worth the fight?  How much will it cost to “fight the fight?”  What are the odds of winning?  What does a win look like?

Actions that Increase Lawyer FeesFamily Law Infographic - Actions that Increase Attorney Fees

Management of Your Divorce Lawyer's Fees

No one wants to incur more fees than are absolutely necessary. Clients have some control over fees incurred by what they do or do not do while their case is pending. A client should discuss with the divorce lawyer the range of fees that will be incurred on a particular issue and balance the costs, the importance of the issue, and the likelihood of success.

Obstacles to Resolution

Why are divorces costly and take so long?

While there is no one answer, there are common issues and themes that delay the resolution and increase the fees

Party (Men/Women) Actions and Inactions:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Unreasonable demands
  • Delays in providing documents and information to a client's own divorce attorney
  • Delays in providing documents and information to the other divorce attorney
  • Hostility and animosity toward the other side
  • Desire to keep the case alive vs. a desire for closure
  • Being influenced by bad advice from friends and relatives
  • Disregard of good and practical advice of own divorce lawyer
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Changing divorce lawyers multiple times
  • Changing positions on issues/flip-flops
  • Psychological or emotional issues that impact decision making
  • Personal animosity toward spouse’s divorce lawyer
  • Unwilling to cooperate and compromise
  • Procrastinating, being too busy, or simple lack of interest

Divorce Lawyer Actions and Inactions:

  • Failure to provide client with assertive practical guidance on the issues
  • Failure to provide client with a cost-benefit analysis of settlement vs. trial
  • Inexperienced in Divorces
  • Not being proactive/No sense of urgency
  • Unskilled in negotiation
  • Unmotivated to resolve the case
  • Playing litigation games to intentionally delay case
  • Churning fees
  • Being too weak to candidly advise client of a losing position on a specific/pending issue
  • Animosity with other attorney or opposing party that inhibits communication, cooperation, and informal resolution
  • Afraid to go to trial

Miscellaneous Issues:

  • Custody litigation delays the overall case
  • Complex financial issues/High net worth
  • Continuances of hearings due to court congestion
  • Experts being overbooked (CPA, psychologists, etc.)
  • Illnesses/Vacations (judge, lawyer, and/or parties)
  • Domestic Violence (D.V.P.A.)

Trial vs. Settlement

There are legitimate reasons for some divorce cases to go to trial. Certain issues and cases have a higher likelihood of going to trial (unsettled areas of law, both parties requesting an award of the same asset, both parties requesting primary custody, etc.). However, most cases can and should be settled. Some people have a psychological need to delay the resolution of their divorce and/or have their "day in court." Certain divorce lawyers rarely settle cases for a variety of reasons. If a person who has a psychological need to take the case to trial retains a divorce attorney who has the “litigation agenda,” then the odds are overwhelming that the case will not be settled. However, if the parties are inclined to settle their issues and each retains a divorce lawyer who does not have the “litigation agenda,” there is a high likelihood that the matter will be settled. We aggressively work towards settling a case from the beginning but are capable and willing to try a case if circumstances truly warrant it.

There are advantages and disadvantages to settling a divorce. The pros and cons should be carefully considered and balanced from day one.

Settlement Trial
The Parties Control The Case vs. The Court  
Certainty of Terms of Settlement  
Lower Attorneys Fees  
Reduced Stress  
Earlier Resolution and Closure  
Opportunity for Creative Settlement Terms Not Available at Trial  
Avoidance of a Surprise Negative Trial Result  
Avoidance of a Potential Appeal  
Higher Likelihood That Parties Will Comply With Court Orders  
Enhanced Likelihood of Long-Term Cooperation on Child-Related Issues  
Tool to Force Closure in a Case Where Other Side is Attempting to Delay Resolution  
Satisfy Psychological Need for the Day in Court  
Opportunity to Obtain Results More Favorable Than the Final Settlement Offer of Other Side