All too often, separated and divorced spouses find themselves steeped in legal fees that can range well into the tens of thousands of dollars with no end in sight.
And even then, They’re often no closer to a divorce or a post-divorce court decision (on terminating alimony, modifying child support and/or paying for college or other child expenses).
If you’re separated or divorced ( or even involved in a civil or commercial case) and want to avoid a costly legal battle, this article will tell you what you need to know first.
The Real Costs of Going to Court
As a practicing lawyer for over 25 years, I’ve seen there’s much no one will tell you (including many lawyers) about what you will pay for when you go to family court until it’s too late. After credit cards and other debts have been run up to pay for mounting legal fees. Certainly, that money could be much better used towards your kids’ college or retirement.
For starters, there’s the complaint and answer to be filed with the court. There might also be pretrial motions if certain custody or financial issues are not resolved by settlement.
There are often discovery demands for piles of financial and other documents, subpoenas and reviewing all the documents. I’ve often received huge discovery demands from other lawyers generated from “standard” templates when all that’s really necessary is knowing what we need to find out and what’s the best quickest least costly way to get it.
After discovery, there are often mandatory court appearances for settlement conferences ( which can last much of the day). If a trial date is set, the lawyers would have much work to do for which they’d need to be paid. This includes preparing trial memos, pre-marking extensive documents in triplicate in trial binders, and spending hours preparing testimony.
There’s also the likelihood of trial dates being scheduled intermittently over the course of several months, and the attorneys might need to order transcripts to refresh their memory of where and how the trial left off. And there’s no telling how a particular judge would ultimately decide.
Unfortunately, the fees for the court process are generally not related to what you want to achieve. Likewise, they don’t justify the outcome to be attained. Especially when the vast majority of cases are ultimately settled out of court.
What You Can Do Instead
Going to court should only be a last resort. Therefore, it’s essential to choose a lawyer who shares your desire to stay out of court. A lawyer who has the necessary skills and experience to successfully settle your case.
A good mediator can also save much on legal fees and help you successfully settle out of court. For more information on how mediation works, check out this post.
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