Home > 2016 > Personal Finance

A Divorced Dad’s Guide to Keeping Lawyer’s Bills Low

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

Hey you, Mr. Middle-Aged Man sitting in the third row wearing the Titleist hat and regretting not putting on the sunscreen yesterday while you were spraying golf balls all over your local municipal golf course. I’ve seen that look before. Hell, I wore it for months myself. You’re getting divorced and the ensuing custody battle has drained your checking account quicker than a cracked pipe at SeaWorld. Sit back and take it from someone who lived through it first-hand — representation is costly.

It’s often the first question people think about when considering a divorce – how much will it cost? Some attorneys don’t schedule a lunch appointment without finding someone to bill for it. To them, your best interest only comes in the form of currency. Understandably, attorneys expect payment for their services, but, in my own divorce experience, how much you’re willing to pay can dictate your “best” interest. Sob stories can just get you voicemail next time you call to schedule a meeting.

I can only speak from the perspective of a divorcing dad doing all he can to get 50/50 custody (which can be very difficult when courts are involved and you are male), but here are my tips for handling your divorce without losing an arm and a leg paying attorney fees.

1. Accept That Your Attorney & Your Ex’s Attorney May Be Friends

Attorneys generally have a “professional” respect among each other. They may talk bad about the opposing attorney to your face, but there is a good chance after a little digging around on the internet you are going to see any two attorneys hobnobbing at some bar association banquet.

2. Limit the Phone Calls

Whether your attorney is friendly with opposing counsel or not, it’s still a good idea to give your attorney ZERO reason to contact the other attorney unnecessarily. Remember, your attorney will likely bill you for that 20-minute phone call.

3. Email Only When Absolutely Necessary

Speaking of it, unless you catch your ex holding your child hostage in a war zone, limit email communications, even with your own attorney. Instead, keep notes and send a weekly or even monthly summary. Emailing your attorney every time you get a bright idea can to cost you $20-$30 a pop. I don’t care if you are laying out a defense strategy that will be taught at the Harvard Law Review or telling your attorney “Thank You” for doing their job. Flattery may get you nowhere but further in debt. (Been there, done that and have the T-shirt to prove it!) And hunt around the internet. There are many third-party apps that will keeps track of all the crucial information for you at a fraction of the cost of having your attorney do this for you (or even for free).

4. Understand All the Costs of Mediation Before Agreeing to It

Depending on the laws in your state or country, mediation can get pretty pricey. In my experience, mediation is the gift that keeps on giving for attorneys. You will likely wind up paying your attorney their hourly rate PLUS half the cost of the mediator (usually another attorney). I advocate taking your chances in court — again you are dealing with two people that make more money the longer you sit in mediation. Take it from me and the millions of other guys I suspect spent a fortune getting the same exact thing they would have going in front of the bench.

5. Know That Talking to Your Ex Through the Lawyer Can Cost You

If your divorce is about as amicable as an Israeli-Palestine peace agreement, you can bet your lawyer is eventually going to suggest/demand that any communication with your soon-to-be ex go through them. But, remember pal, ANY communications with your lawyer can cost money, so try to tune out potential arguments with your ex and, even if you are in the right about an issue, just document it and maybe it will pay off in the long run. (Remember, too, the urge to call your ex every nasty name in the book may be tempting, but in today’s digital age screen images of emails and text messages are hard to explain away, so refrain from sending profanities your ex’s way.)

I stress again do not get caught in the trap of communicating with the ex through a lawyer. Fellow dad, I get it. I’ve been there and I’ve got the scars to prove it. This new world of going through a divorce involves calculated moves and you can forget common sense.

6. Accept That Custody Is Going to Be a Costly Battle

If you are just dealing with a divorce with no kids, congratulations, you have saved yourself a few thousand dollars immediately. Unfortunately, for many of us, that isn’t the case. You can kick, scream, write a daily letter to the editor of your local newspaper and you still may not wind up with, at the minimum, 50/50 custody. The family law system does not tend to favor a father and your lawyer likely knows this. I’m not saying accept less custody than you are seeking (I didn’t), but be prepared for many empty meetings with your attorney telling you to take the deal you are offered. Good luck is my advice, again I’m not telling you to punt, but be forewarned. Unless your pockets are very deep, this could potentially come up fruitless.

[Editor’s Note: Remember, divorce can wreak havoc on your finances and your credit. You can monitor any joint accounts as you go through the process by pulling your credit reports for free each year and viewing your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.]

 This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: PeopleImages

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team