Having legal problems can affect many aspects of your life. It may be affecting your family and other relationships, your housing, and your finances. Hiring an attorney is often the best way to advocate for your position. However, attorneys are expensive because of the level of training and skill they have to have to run a successful law practice, and they generally charge by the hour, making time an important factor.
And problems that took years to make sometimes take time–a lot of time–to untangle two lives that have been woven together over the years.
So, how can you, as the client, take control of your legal matters and save money while still advancing your case? Below, are five ways to save money in litigation, allowing you to promote a strong case, while managing the costs along the way.
1. Discovery Legwork:
Discovery is the method by which parties gather information for either settlement or trial and often involves interrogatories (written questions(1) and requests for production (asking for certain documents or things to be produced(2).
Discovery can be cumbersome because it often calls for the gathering of large amounts of information that is not readily or easily available. Typically, tax records from the last three years are needed. Where these are obtained by either party or available from their tax preparer, this simple step on your part can save money and move your case along–potentially faster–given the delay and hassle of retrieving by counsel from the IRS/IDOR.
Making complete answers and providing as many documents/things as possible will likely prevent a motion to compel or second set of discovery being served upon you, thus saving time and money. Sometimes this is not possible because of way records are authenticated, but if you are willing, your attorney may welcome your help.
2. Define the Communication Chain:
There are many questions that legal issues and litigation call up, and often clients want answers immediately to issues that are concerning them. While a client should certainly receive those answers, the format and means may be important to saving time and money.
If you e-mail or call your attorney with every question as you think of it, you may be interrupting them from talking with the other side or getting your documents filed. Talk with your attorney about how to communicate most effectively.
For example, maybe you keep a list of your questions for the week and e-mail them at a set time you and your attorney have agreed upon. That allows your attorney to focus on case and you to make sure none of your questions go unanswered and are considered by your attorney with filings or communications with opposing counsel.
Certainly, if there is an emergency or something changes that is critical to the case, contact your attorney. But, those routine inquiries or hypothetical situations or status updates that can wait might save you money in the end.
3. Consider Therapy:
Litigation, and especially divorce, is an extremely stressful process. Often, the family dynamic is changing, and it can be emotionally tolling and draining. Many issues that are discussed with an attorney are not necessarily legal. Your attorney is likely (better) focused on child support, child custody, division of assets and liabilities, and the like.
However, the issues of the divorcing parties are more complex, such as he is not communicating well or she has a new boyfriend that is not well liked, et cetera. You may consider discussing such issues with therapist, or counselor, who may be able to help you with the emotional side of divorce–a powerful, but nevertheless, non-legal dynamic.
These non-legal issues raised during time with your attorney can detract from the time you can spend on the legal issues. Most attorneys do not have a degree or training in counseling and are not allowed to play that role for their clients, except as it relates to the legal issues.
4. Set Reasonable Objectives:
It is important to keep in mind in divorce cases, there is no winner. No one gets exactly what they want, often at the expense of the parties and children. Therefore, be realistic about your objectives. While it may seem to you that the other party is a terrible parent and you should have sole custody and their time should be supervised, this is often difficult to attain, even with good cause.
To litigate to obtain your “perfect” scenario is often unrealistic, and you could spend tens of thousands of dollars for discovery, experts, evaluations, and trial, and still may not obtain the result you are looking for.
Realize that divorce is an emotionally-fueled process and try to think critically and reasonably about your intentions and goals for the outcome. By having reasonable and realistic goals, you are making your case easier and saving yourself money.
5. Give to the Point it Hurts:
Again, divorce is a difficult and emotional time, and at some points, it can become about bitterness and revenge rather than what is best for the family and your future. Realizing that the legal process is not emotional can help you better adjust your path to divorce.
Mediation is generally less expensive than trial, and it allows both parties to negotiate and try to work out a solution through a neutral third party. Trial is an expensive proposition, and again, there is not a winner. Trying to work out issues through mediation can save time and money through compromise, and may yield the same, if not better, results as trial.
Divorce is difficult, time consuming, and expensive, but considering and utilizing these five steps may save you time, money, and frustration as you make your way through the process. Try to keep perspective the end goal and your future. Make decisions based on strategy for the family rather that emotion, hurt, and or anger.
(1) Trial Rule 33
(2) Trial Rule 34