How To Keep Attorney Fees DOWN in a Child Case


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Very few people sit around, trying to think of ways to pay their lawyer MORE money. Actually, they are probably sitting around, thinking that THEIR lawyer is sitting around, thinking about ways to CHARGE more money. This isn't true - lawyers can charge plenty of money ethically, because litigation is complex, and usually involves hours of preparation. Lawyers usually charge by the hour. Hours of preparation. Hourly rate. Hours hours hours. . .

So how do you keep the lawyer fees down? REDUCE the hours the lawyer charges for preparation! In other words, there are things you can gather or prepare for your case, that could be done by your lawyer. If they are done by you, the cost to you is time.

For example, let's take a divorce, with a modest estate, with custody at dispute. Since the divorce involves property, give your lawyer the last 4 or 5 bank statements, portfolio statements, 401(k) or pension statements, and other such investment and financial statements. Own a house? Provide the last appraisal. No appraisal? In that case, it's actually cheaper to just order one right now, because it's going to come in eventually. Oh, and all the same documents for your spouse (don't break any laws getting the documents, however. It's not necessary). Make a list of all your deductions fromyour paycheck, utility bills, monthly payments (like car payments, insurance, etc. ), other regular payments (like quarterly tax payments, real estate taxes, etc. ). Your locality may have a form for this, but do it now on your own.

INVENTORY YOUR HOUSE! There is NOTHING more important than to have an accurate list of the items in your house. If anything is declared on insurance riders, like jewelry or musical instruments, include that also. Take pictures of every room, with the furniture in its usual place. If you have receipts for items you purchased, get them! Make a note of any item you think is not or should not be “marital property. " You may be wrong on everything, but having such a list makes it easier to review and develop strategy with your lawyer.

Income is usually looked at, so bring your last 4 or 5 Federal and state income tax returns and attachments, 6 months of pay stubs and bonuses, and statements showing investment income. If you run your own business, your books! Profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and checking account statements. Same information for your spouse, if you can get it easily. Bring any documents showing the existence of loans.

Where custody is involved, get school records, medical records, pickup and dropoff logs at the daycare, diaries, letters from the children to you, counseling records, and the like. Go through your check book (if it's your name or is a joint account) and make a list of checks you wrote for ANYTHING involving the children. If it's a joint account, then list EVERY check involving the children, whether you or your spouse actually wrote the check, because a joint account means it is your money, regardless of who wrote the check.

Finally, SUMMARIZE! First, ask your lawyer to ASK you to summarize. That way it's “work product" and can't be discovered by the other side. Summaries are excellent tools to save you money on lawyer fees by focusing the lawyer on the important facts. At the same time, summaries help you remember key points, and develop the story of your case.

The suggestions in this article will save you money, by saving your lawyer the time to gather these documents. It might annoy you, to do what you hired a lawyer to do . . . until you remember that you hired your lawyer to PRESENT the case. Take yourself out to dinner on the money you save!

Erik Carter is an experienced family law litigator. He has created a website to help non-custodial fathers at He has also written two books: “Aggressive Pleadings For The Non-Custodial Father" and “Six Temptations Of Jesus Christ"


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