One of the most significant concerns that people have heading into a divorce is how to protect their money. It’s not that money is the most important thing in the world or that people are greedy. It’s just that if you are in a position where a divorce appears to be upcoming in your life you start to think about how to play defense and absorb the blows of a divorce. When it comes to getting a divorce, it should not be assumed that the costs of the divorce are only related to attorney’s fees. You may find that hiring an attorney is the least expensive part of a divorce. With that said let’s examine some of the ways that a divorce could cost you and your family money both in the short and long term.
First, we do need to consider the cost of hiring an attorney when it comes to protecting your money in a divorce. Most people who go through a divorce hire an attorney. What that attorney ends up costing you is a completely different subject. For example, you can choose to hire an extremely experienced lawyer, who has a fancy office in an expensive part of town and who charges a lot of money as a result. Or you can choose to hire an attorney who works in your neighborhood does not have fancy office space and can provide you with the same quality of legal services. The difficult part of this discussion is that you have to determine which attorney suits your circumstances better period
The next part of protecting your money in a divorce is figuring out how an attorney bill for their services. Hiring an attorney is not necessarily like hiring a contractor to build you a bathroom. Contractors will typically quote you a price at the beginning of their job. Our family law attorney does not operate like this. Rather, a family law attorney will charge you an upfront amount of money at the beginning of your case known as a retainer fee. This retainer will retain the attorney services for you and your family. This allows him or her to begin working on your case in filing documents or responding to the documents filed by your spouse.
Next, a family law attorney bills by the hour to work on your case. The significance of this is that every family law attorney will charge a little bit differently from their competitors. You should ask your attorney that you are meeting with and in consultation about how he or she charges and what their hourly rate is also bear in mind that it is not only your attorney who will be working on your case. He or she likely has a staff including legal assistants, paralegals, and other people that will be working in your case. Each of these people will bill for the hours they worked in your case Find out what each of these people would build and how work is divided up in the office. You may find that you were attorneys support staff does more work on a day-to-day basis Then the attorney does. Therefore, hiring an attorney may be more budget-friendly than you would have thought.
Different attorneys allow for Different types of payments to their office. Most attorneys accept payments and forms like cash, check, and credit card. However, with time sees different types of payments be accepted the remains of Bitcoin, online lending services, or even bartering. I’m not saying that you can necessarily trade legal services for a service that you can provide to the attorney but there may be a specific circumstance where this can occur. All it takes is for you to find the right attorney and to have the right number of skills available to assist that lawyer with whatever he or she needs. The attorney would need to verify that whatever payment arrangement you were setting up is ethical.
Another aspect of this discussion is that the attorney may be willing to work on your case in certain areas. For example, you may not want to have an attorney to help you negotiate your case, but you would like an attorney to be there with you in mediation or even in drafting final orders. I can tell you that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is very flexible with our clients we represent people frequently in these limited scope arrangements. You and your spouse may have the basis of an agreement already in place but just need a lawyer to help you finalize your paperwork and ensure that everyone is getting a fair shot at things. If you hire an attorney to help review your settlement documents and your spouse does the same, you are more likely to have a fair and equitable settlement.
Another factor to consider is that many people worked very hard on divorce only to see their final orders end up not being clear or even worse not being enforceable. The whole point of going through a divorce and putting specific language in a final order is to ensure that you can each hold each other responsible for your actions if you fail to abide by the terms of that order. An unclear, incomplete, or otherwise unenforceable final decree of divorce means that the orders are not worth the paper that they are printed on. This will be a huge blow to you and your spouse after you spent time, effort, and money in securing the divorce in the first place.
One of the interesting things about representing yourself in a divorce is that there are so many circumstances in play in a typical Texas divorce that it is nearly impossible to predict exactly how your divorce will go. Even if do you have little money or no property at all there can still be twists and turns of your case that require people to look at how to adjust for those twists and turns. If you find yourself in a position where you have other obligations, such as working children, and are not fully able to commit yourself to adjust for these changes that occur in a case then you are better off hiring an experienced family law attorney. The attorney is well suited to help guide you and provide you with advice throughout your case.
If money is truly a challenge for you then you may even be able to find an attorney who can represent you on a pro bono basis. Pro bono simply means that an attorney will offer you their legal services at no charge. For instance, many attorneys choose to offer a particular person a year of legal services at no charge. This is a way of giving back to the community and simply extending a nice gesture towards another person. If you truly have no way of paying for an attorney service, you should make that known to the lawyer in your consultation. The lawyer can either talk to you about offering you services at a reduced or no charge, if he or she chooses, or can point you in the direction of an attorney who may be able to help you.
I think one of the keys to this entire discussion is that you need to be able to understand how an attorney bills and what the cost of your case may end up looking like at its conclusion. This does not necessarily mean that the attorney can or should give you an estimate of the cost of your case. Most of the time it will be next to impossible for an attorney to be able to accurately guess how much your case will end up costing you. There are attorney’s fees, mediation costs, court costs, filing fees in a list of other costs that may be relevant to your case. For that reason, some attorneys are hesitant to even give you an estimate on what your case can end up costing you.
However, that does not mean you should not ask the attorney about how their billing structure typically works with a client. Talk with your lawyer that you are considering hiring about how you will be billed a month for services rendered. Many attorneys require separate retainers made for things like mediation or trials. This can happen in situations where the attorney expects to spend a great deal of time working in a certain area of your case. The second retainer will ensure that there is enough money in your account for the lawyer and their staff to be paid and for you to have the work done on your case that is necessary for success.
It makes a great deal of sense for you to talk with the attorney before signing a contract that commits you to pay him or her a certain amount of money. The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a position where the lawyer has been hired but you do not understand what it means to pay an attorney for services done in your case. From my experience, these are easily figured out situations that you simply need to ask the attorney about before committing to tiring him or her.
I understand that it can be a difficult time in your life when you are looking to hire an attorney. You may feel like time is of the essence and that you cannot pause to even consider stopping to ask questions about how the attorney charges. However, this is probably the most important consideration that you could make when it comes to saving money at the beginning of a case. Rather than assume that you understand what is going on in the case you should ensure that you do. This begins and ends with understanding how the attorney bills for their services and what you can expect in return from the lawyer. Having this level of trust with the lawyer who will be serving you throughout your case is probably the most direct way to protect your money especially early in the case.
Learn about how much money you have
this may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but you can’t protect the money that you do not know is out there. This can be done in a few different kinds of ways. The most straightforward would be to begin to examine your financial accounts before your divorce. Do you have retirement accounts such as IRA’s or 401K’s? If so, you should learn the brokerage house or investment company that you have the account with and start to organize statements of those accounts. This will be important to your case for several reasons. Not the least of which is that you need to be able to learn how much money you have at stake in your case so you can negotiate from a stronger position. Next, the more you understand your finances the better you will be able to formulate goals for your case. I have found that clients who have a strong understanding of their goals for a case tend to achieve more in their divorce. At the very least, you will be able to structure your case better and not waste time thinking about things that ultimately will have no bearing on the results of your case. I understand where you are financially, and you will be better prepared when it comes to formulating goals on how to protect the money you do have.
Another advantage in learning how much money you have is that eventually you’ll be asked to send discovery responses to your Co-parent where each of you answers questions and provide information to the other spouse about finances. That way everyone can be operating off the same information. The more research you can perform on your own at the beginning of a divorce the better for you. Not only does this help you in organizing your case and developing goals but it also saves you money. Keep in mind that your attorney and their staff will need to help you with collecting much of this information if you wait too long to do it. My advice would be to begin organizing this information and thinking about it in detail even before your divorce. You never know what steps will occur in your case or what may happen in the sense of your not being able to access information contained on a computer or in a physical file cabinet at your home.
An emergency fund is helpful
One of the b best pieces of advice that I ever received as a young adult must always have an emergency fund for life’s events that you cannot predict. All of us will encounter a rainy day at some point in our life. That rainy day may come in the form of a broken-down car, a pipe burst in her house, or something else altogether. For that reason, we need to be able to begin planning for those things and two set the course for ourselves in terms of financial success after the divorce. It can go a long way towards protecting your money if you have an emergency fund.
One thing having an emergency fund does is that it reduces the likelihood that you will need to take out a loan or otherwise borrow money during your case. Sometimes it is practically unavoidable to borrow money for a divorce case. Credit cards, loans from family, and other types of commercial loans may be something that you must take advantage of bearing in mind the circumstances of your case. However, this should be avoided at all costs if possible. Having an emergency fund will allow you to dip into that money for items that come up that you cannot predict. You may need to work a second job or otherwise sell items to have some money in reserve as you lead into a divorce. However, the benefit of having an emergency fund is significant.
Another aspect of having an emergency fund means that you will be better prepared to begin filling out a budget for yourself. I understand that it can be difficult to budget or plan that far ahead when you are going through a divorce. Nobody who goes through a divorce can accurately tell you exactly when your case will end and exactly how much the process will start. However, it is possible to begin working out these muscles so that you will be better equipped to have a budget after your divorce is over the period a budget does not constrain your spending. Rather, the budget permits you to spend and helps you to understand where you are spending your money period from there you can make wiser financial decisions and ultimately protect your money better both during and after a divorce.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or a child custody case.