The average national fee charged by divorce attorneys in the United States is $250 per hour and can be even much higher if you’re dealing with a senior lawyer or partner. The average cost of a divorce is $15,500 with a total of $12,800 in attorney fees. Here are a few tips to help you cut some of that cost down and save money on legal fees.
Keep It Strictly Business
Lawyers charge by the hour and their rates are expensive. Chances are that you’ll be billed for the full hour even if your conversation involves topics not related to your divorce. Try to avoid open-ended questions and keep your answers relevant to the case at hand. Get straight to the point and only address issues directly to your divorce. If you need emotional support or feel like venting, seeing a therapist will be much more affordable since you’ll only be responsible for the co-pay if you have health insurance.
Research Divorce Procedures For Your State
You can save tons of money before you even have a consultation with a divorce lawyer by reading up on the legal process and gathering the documents required in order to file for divorce proceedings in your state. For example, if you’re a resident of California you can visit the California Courts website and obtain information on how to file a divorce, legal separation or annulment. Having a basic idea of the process will enable you to focus on the questions that really matter when you speak with your attorney. Remember, they bill by the hour so you don’t want to spend that time asking questions to which you can easily find the answer for by Googling.
Talk To Your Attorney’s Associate Or Legal Assistant
Lawyers bill for phone calls which means that it will be much more cost effective to speak with a secretary or a junior associate with a lower hourly rate. If you have a clerical question about a particular form, ask the legal secretary or assistant. Make sure to ask for the hourly rates of all of the staff helping you with your case. All rates should also be included in your retainer agreement.
Work With Your Spouse
The thought of sitting down with your soon to be ex may seem unpleasant but it can help you save thousands of dollars. Try to come to an agreement on the value of your assets, debts and income. A real estate agent will be able to assist you appraising the value of your home. The cost of vehicles can be determined by consulting with Kelley Blue Book.
If you aren’t able to come to the same conclusion, you’ll have to undergo a process called formal discovery which means both parties will ask each other questions via each other’s divorce lawyers. This will only result in additional charges on your attorney bill.
Keep Phone Conversations Short
Keep in mind that time spent over the phone with your divorce attorney gets billed in 6-minute increments. For example, if your attorney bill is at $200 an hour that’s $20 per 6-minute increment and a 7-minute conversation will be charged $40 for 2 full increments. You would have paid the same $40 for an 11 or 12-minute conversation. Write down your questions ahead of time and try to cover them in one conversation instead of several, which will end up being more expensive. Make sure to find out what
type of incremental billing your divorce attorney uses prior to hiring since this can vary (some attorneys bill in 12-minute increments). You may want to consider asking questions via e-mail which can be more cost-effective and just as efficient.