Family Law Attorneys are Hourly Workers
Like babysitters, attorneys charge by the hour. Time is usually billed in 1/6 (.1) increments or 1/4 (.25). For example, a phone call typically lasts 15 minutes. That would be .25 or .3, depending on whether your attorney bills in .1 or .25 increments. (I bill in .25 increments). How they bill will be clearly stated on your fee agreement.
Unlike personal injury, where the attorneys can take a portion of the settlement, family law attorneys do not. Their time is billed by the hour, and the hourly does not fluctuate based on how many assets there are.
Common complaint: “My attorney dropped me when I ran out of money, therefore he is a bad attorney.”
Wrong thinking! Attorneys don’t work for free. If you can’t pay, their services get turned off. (Like your cell phone, cable, or internet). Doctors work this way too.
Retainers Are NOT Flat Fees
When a family law attorney takes your case, they will take an upfront retainer to bill against. The money is deposited into a Client Trust Account (this is the client’s money – unearned), and will not be earned until work is done.
The upfront retainer is NOT a flat fee for work to be done. It is merely a deposit. For example, if I take a $15,000 retainer and my hourly rate is $500, the $15,000 is an upfront deposit for 30 hours of my time.
At the outset, it is not possible to predict how much time will be spent on your divorce. If it is a “simple uncontested” divorce, it could take less than 8 hours. However, if you spend years fighting, it would cost more. 5,000 hours at $500 is 2.5 million dollars.
So, the more time you spend, the more money it will cost. Time is money.
Most attorneys will provide monthly statements to their clients. The statements will contain an itemized list of work performed, along with time spent on each task. They will also reflect the amount left in your retainer. Make sure you check your monthly statements.
Pick Your Battles
Remember that time is money, and don’t spend time fighting everything. For example, cleaning supplies! People fight over cleaning supplies! Rather than pay a lawyer 30 minutes ($250) to write a letter about getting half of your cleaning supplies, just go out and purchase brand new supplies.
Did your ex purposely list her new husband as the “father” on school documents? Rather than call your attorney and complain for 1 hour, write a letter to the school indicating you are the father and fax them the Court order, and request that you be listed as the father on all school communications.
Divorce is highly emotional, but not every fight needs to involve a lawyer. Resist the urge to telephone or email your attorney – save money. Also, protect your attorney from caretaker’s fatigue!
Hire a Therapist
Therapists bill in the same manner as attorneys. However, their hourly rate is usually lower. If you want to confide in someone about what a cheater your wife is; or what a low-level parasite your husband is, call your therapist instead of your attorney.
Try to Resolve Issues with Your Spouse
Some people don’t want to deal with their spouse. I get it. Lawyers can deal with it. But they charge per hour. Narcissist ex’es know exactly how to drive up fees. Dealing with normal people to finalize divorce? Around $10,000. Dealing with narcissists? Around $100,000.
Instead of hurling your narcissistic ex at your lawyer, use your expertise at dealing with them to your advantage, and save money.
At the end of the day, proving they are narcissistic is not your goal. The goal is to get out and move on.
Listen to Your Attorneys’ Advice
When you’re in a heightened emotional state, your listening ears may be turned off. When you call your attorney, make sure you have a list of questions, and write down answers they give you. This will avoid you being billed twice.
Know Your Budget
Can you afford this fight? If you only have $30,000 to spend on attorneys, you will need to preserve the resources. Pick and choose your battles. Use your lawyer for complicated legal issues; not babysitting.
Beware of the PitBull Lawyer
Said lawyer is notorious for fighting EVERYTHING and playing dirty. You want what’s best for your child and have told them that your child loves the other parent. The lawyer then files a restraining order and a kick-out order. They’re all about the fight and winning, no matter how much it destroys your family.
Family Law Attorneys are Worth WAY More than the Average Lawyer
Family law attorneys are worth their money. When you hire a family law attorney, you are not only getting a lawyer ($350 – $1500 per hour), but a therapist ($150 – $250 per hour), a financial advisor, a counselor, hand-holder, crisis manager.
You may only be paying $500 an hour, but in reality, they are worth $5,000 per hour. So treat your family law attorneys with dignity and respect, always pay your bills, and don’t contribute to their caregiver’s fatigue.