Preview Book – Chapter 3

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CHAPTER 3

Divorce Pearls and Perils:
Secrets of Saving Money
and Avoiding Mistakes

“The wound is the
place where the light
enters you.”

— Rumi

rainbow2There won’t be rainbows at the end of your divorce, and probably not any pots of gold. But along the way, there will be some golden opportunities to save money and maximize your divorce results.

In this chapter you’ll learn how to take advantage of those opportunities… and how to avoid screwing it all up.

Find the Secret Lawyer Bargain Basement!

It’s true! There is a bargain basement of lawyers out there who:

  • It’s true! There is a bargain basement of lawyers out there who:
  • Have practiced principally or exclusively in the field of family law for at
    least the last 5 years
  • Have been trained at either
    • A small “boutique” matrimonial law firm that specializes in family
      cases, or
    • The matrimonial department of a larger law firm
  • Are still firm associates and thus charge substantially less than the firm’s
    partners
  • Combine
    • Youthful energy
    • A caring relationship with clients
    • Mentorship by some of the better family lawyers in the area
    • Their own family law experience, which exceeds that of many general
      practitioners who have been members of the bar for far longer

In Chapter 4 we’ll discuss how to find these Bargain Babies!

When Less Can Be More: Learn About “Effective Billing Rates”

Q. When is a 3-minute call to a lawyer who charges $350/hr., more expensive than the same call to a $450/hr. attorney?

A. When Attorney $350 charges in increments of 2/10 of an hour ($70 for 3 minutes) and Attorney $450 charges in 1/10 hr. increments ($45 for 3 minutes). See Chapter 4.

Discover the Secret Fount of Family Law Knowledge

Here’s how to find lawyers who know your state’s family law as well as anyone:

  • On your state bar association’s website, find “Sections & Committees”
  • Select The Family Law Section or similarly named committee
  • Find the meeting minutes and locate the names of lawyers who regularly present “recent developments,” OR
  • Call the office of one of the Section officers and ask for the names of the Family Law Section members who present programs on recent developments in the law.1

Learn the Witness’s Magic Word

Witnesses can stop a cross-examining attorney in his tracks with a single word: “speculation.” For example: “I would just be speculating if I answered that question.” Judges don’t allow speculation because it has no “probative value.” See Chapter 14.

Save Attorneys’ Fees With Good Timing

You can save some money by delaying hiring a lawyer for a short period of time while you:

  • File for divorce yourself using forms available on your state’s court system
    website
  • Consult a certified divorce planner or certified divorce financial analyst to
    • Help you organize your financial paperwork
    • Help you prepare your financial disclosure statement
    • Discuss with you other divorce-related issues such as pensions, alimony
      deductions, etc.
  • Consult a certified divorce coach, if necessary, regarding organizing for
    divorce and dealing with non-financial issues
    Note that this approach is advisable only in the following circumstances:
  • You have consulted with a matrimonial attorney who has advised you
    that there are no pressing matters that require immediate legal representation
    such as pendente lite (temporary) support or custody issues
  • You and your children are not at risk of harm
  • You have very little funds available for attorneys’ fees
  • There are experienced CDPs or CDFAs in your area
  • You understand that divorce coaches, unlike attorneys, can be required
    to disclose clients’ oral and written communications

Finally, note that there is a related option called “unbundled,” “discrete task,” or “consulting attorney” representation. In an unbundled representation arrangement, you hire a lawyer to handle only certain parts of your case. Unbundled pros and cons are discussed in Chapter 4.

Settle Your Case Quicker and Cheaper

“What the world needs now
is love sweet love. It’s the only
thing that there’s just too little of.”

– Burt Bacharach / Hal David

Not to nitpick, but love isn’t the only thing the world has too little of. Empathy is also in short supply. And lack of empathy can be a serious hindrance to divorce settlements, both in ADR and court-based cases.

Spouses who use empathy to understand and identify with each other’s emotions and attitudes have a decided advantage in settling their cases. Borrowing from another lyric, if you can “walk a mile in your (spouse’s) shoes,” you’re likely to arrive at “yes” that much faster, easier and cheaper. Try to experience emotions and attitudes such as anxiety or entitlement that your spouse may have regarding certain issues. The resulting insights can be of tremendous assistance to you during settlement negotiation.

End of excerpt from Chapter 3

 

1 If you feel compelled to give a reason for your call, tell the staff person that you are researching an article on Cross-Frontier Surrogacy Issues under the Hague Abduction Convention. That ought to dissuade any of the firm’s lawyers from getting on the line to try and sign you up as a client.