Clients are always very concerned with the cost of their divorce proceedings, and with good reason. In New Jersey, it’s not uncommon for the hourly rates of family law attorneys to be in the range of $200-$600 per hour. Retainers for a divorce are generally upwards of $5,000 and it is often unrealistic to believe that your divorce will absolutely be resolved before that initial retainer is exhausted. If you and your spouse have been able to reach an agreement prior to retaining counsel, it may aid in keeping your costs down if all that is needed is putting through an uncontested divorce. However, in many cases issues arise that need to be addressed by counsel. Here are some tips to make sure your divorce doesn’t break the bank:
1. Try to talk to your spouse before involving counsel.
While some couples going through a divorce are extremely angry and unable to speak effectively with one another, a good number of divorces are simply people who acknowledge that they have outgrown the relationship. It will benefit you, your spouse, and even your children if you and your spouse can talk to one another about the issues you are facing. If, for example, you can resolve the issues of custody and parenting time just by talking to your spouse, this will go a long way in saving you counsel fees as these very important issues will be resolved from the outset. It’s always a good idea to see what you might be able to work out simply by communicating prior to reaching out to your attorney.
2. Be aware of the frequency of your communications with your attorney.
Some people do not realize when they sign the retainer agreement that they are going to be billed for all work that is completed on their file, including the times that they reach out to their attorney or the attorney’s support staff. One of the biggest drains on a retainer is the client who e-mails or calls constantly over minor issues. It is a better use of your resources to make a list of questions or concerns and include them all in one or two emails rather than e-mail in a stream of consciousness manner.
3. Be realistic in your goals.
To some extent, your divorce needs to be a cost/benefit analysis. If you and your spouse have limited means, you will need to keep that in mind as you move forward through your divorce. For example, if you want your spouse to have alternating weekends with the children and they want a 50/50 schedule, it may benefit you to come up with a middle ground rather than pay for a custody evaluation. These evaluations, which are becoming more popular with the Courts, generally cost in excess of $10,000. If you do not have significant assets from which to pay this expense, you may want to reconsider your position on this issue.
4. Keep your future in mind.
Ultimately, you will be finished with this divorce and will need to move forward with your life. If you have elected to take a scorched earth approach to the divorce process, meaning spending every dollar you have to fight over assets and children, you will be left in a difficult financial position once the divorce is finalized. You do not want to cut off your nose to spite your face, so to speak. Keep in mind that someday you will be past this divorce and you will want to be able to support yourself and your children to the best of your ability. There is a light at the end of the tunnel that you need to focus on when picking your battles in a divorce proceeding.
If you need assistance with a divorce, contact the attorneys at DeTorres & DeGeorge at 908-284-6005 to schedule a consultation.