Depending on the circumstances of each case, family law matters may be fairly simple or extremely complicated. Understandably, legal fees needed to litigate a case depend on the complexity of the matter at hand.
Whether you are dealing with a difficult divorce or trying to settle child custody matters, the good news is that there are several practical steps you can take to reduce your legal costs.
- Read your retainer agreement.
First and foremost—read your retainer agreement thoroughly. Family law attorneys typically charge based on the amount of time spent on a case. As such, understand just how you are being charged. In what increments is your hourly rate being charged? Will your attorney charge for travel time? Understanding your fee arrangement is the first step towards taking control of your case and reducing costs.
- Play an active role.
Taking an active role in your case is one sure way to minimize legal fees. This means doing more than just paying your attorney and expecting him or her to do every single thing. Take proactive steps such as keeping orderly records, filing documents when you can, and even making multiple photocopies of all documentation needed by your attorney. Asking your attorney to do the work for you means having to pay for your attorney’s time.
- Respond to inquiries immediately.
Remember that your attorney handles other cases apart from yours. It is best to respond promptly to any inquires your attorney may make about your case. This way, details are still fresh in your attorney’s mind and your case can move forward quickly. Any delay in responding may result in your attorney moving on to other cases for the time being, then needing to take time to review your file later on.
- Stick to email if possible
One of the most effective and efficient means of communication to use with your attorney is email. You can not only send emails at a time when it is most convenient to you, but your attorney can also read your message and reply when it is most convenient for him or her. Emails are a great way to keep a permanent record of all communication, and are easy to refer to when needed.
- Keep your relationship professional.
The reality is that your attorney is a professional who charges money for his or her time, and so you must use time with your attorney as wisely and efficiently as you can. If you’re calling your attorney in search of some empathy, you may be better off calling a friend instead. Stick to calling your attorney for purposes of legal counseling and legal advice only.
- Work with your spouse in a divorce.
Sometimes, in a divorce, the opposing party is uncooperative and unwilling to converse without an attorney present. Other times, however, a spouse may be open to communicating without an attorney intervening. When possible, work out as many issues with your spouse on your own—without assistance from your attorney. Limiting the number of issues in your case will help you save on overall legal fees.
- Be open to alternatives.
In many instances, mediation or counseling are viable and cost-effective alternatives to litigation for family law matters. Discuss your available options with your attorney, and determine which one is best suited for your particular situation.