How to Speed the Process and Manage Attorney Fees

Your actions 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 lawyer you respect professionally
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Compromise on appropriate issues
  • Retain a 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 lawyer and provide the requested documents and information ASAP
  • Follow your lawyer’s advice or consider finding a different lawyer
  • View decisions about financial matters as “business decisions”
  • Require your 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 Attorney FeesFamily Law Infographic - Actions that Increase Attorney Fees

Management of Attorneys Fees

No one desires to incur more fees than is absolutely necessary. Clients themselves impact the amount of fees incurred by what they do or do not do while their case is pending. A client should discuss with the attorney 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? Why do they take so long?

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

Party (Men/Women) Actions and Inactions:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Unreasonable demands
  • Delay in providing documents and information to a client's own attorney
  • Delay in providing documents and information to the other 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 lawyer
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Changing lawyers multiple times
  • Changes in positions on issues/flip-flops
  • Psychological or emotional issues that impact decision making
  • Personal animosity toward spouse’s lawyer
  • Unwillingness to cooperate and compromise
  • Procrastination, being too busy, or simple lack of interest

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 Family Law
  • Not being proactive/No sense of urgency
  • Unskilled in negotiation
  • Unmotivated to resolve the case
  • Playing litigation games to intentionally delay case
  • Churning fees
  • Failure 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

Miscellaneous Issues:

  • Custody litigation
  • 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 family law 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 the case and/or have their "day in court." Men and women can both display this type of conduct.  Certain lawyers rarely settle cases for a variety of reasons. If a person who has a psychological need to take the case to trial retains an attorney who has the “litigation agenda,” 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 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 as opposed to trying a case. The pros and cons should be carefully considered and balanced from day one.

 
Settlement Trial
SETTLEMENT PROS    
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  
Privacy  
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  
TRIAL PROS    
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