I like to Move It Move It! If you have kids, you probably remember this song from the movie Madagascar. What does this pop tune have to do with your divorce?
As a divorce lawyer and mediator, I've seen cases completed efficiently, while others drag on and accrue high legal fees. Certainly the attorney you hire has some influence on this, but more of the responsibility rests with the divorcing parties.
It seems obvious that the longer your divorce drags on the more money you will spend on it. Divorce and family law attorneys know this is true, and unfortunately some that will try to drag out your case – at least until your money runs out. This is just another reason the actions of some divorce lawyers make it so I am not as popular as I clearly should be at cocktail parties. This is why speed matters in divorce.
The Wall Street Journal recently featured a short article by Charles Rotblut. If nothing else, be glad your last name is not Rotblut as I can think of several variations of that name that were likely hurled around the playground. Apparently Mr. Rotblut did just fine however, because he is a financial expert and a VP with the American Association of Individual Investors. He asks readers a simple question at the start of his article:
“What is the biggest financial mistake divorcing couples make?
Before we dive further into this issue, just click here if you would like to watch the “I Like to Move It Move It” music video featuring dancing, animated animals.
Ok, so Just what is the biggest financial mistake made by divorcing couples? No, it is not getting married in the first place. Mr. Rotblut says it “is not settling as quickly as possible,” and he points out he has worked on a number of divorce cases. He also makes another observation that is a simple and powerful point to remember if you are involved in a Massachusetts divorce or other family law matter, such as a post-divorce child support or alimony modification. He reminds us that “emotions and finance don't mix well together.” He continues that “one of the of the smartest financial moves a person can make in a divorce is to reach as amicable settlement as possible and move on. The legal expenses will be considerably lower and the process of healing, from an emotional standpoint will start sooner.”
That is good advice. You've got to move it move it! Go ahead, watch the video again, you know you want to.
You don't want a lawyer to rush through your case without knowing all the facts, but generally speaking, Mr. Rotblut's advice is solid. Unfortunately, some people just seem to focus on the conflict, perhaps even thrive on it. These are the divorce case disasters that likely involve disproportionately high legal fees. If your spouse has this characteristic or hires an attorney that takes steps to unnecessarily prolong the divorce or encourage unreasonable positions, you are going to have a more expensive bill.
If you are willing to adopt a more reasonable approach, your attorney should work to obtain a settlement for you as soon as possible. If you think that your lawyer is not giving your case enough attention, then talk to your lawyer about your concerns. There are some negatives to switching lawyers mid-stream, so consider your options carefully. Sometimes, hiring a different lawyer is your best choice. Also, the Probate & Family Court places all divorce cases on a scheduling track, which helps to keep cases moving along to some extent.
How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced & At What Cost?
One of the smartest ways to keep your divorce legal fees under control is to avoid the court-based, litigated process altogether and find yourself an experienced divorce mediator. A mediator will work with you and your spouse to reach a full agreement on all of the issues, such as your parenting plan and dividing assets and debts. Mediation is a less-adversarial form of dispute resolution, and provides a number of long-range benefits to families, even more so if children are involved. So long as your divorce mediator is also a MA attorney, then the mediator can draft your required court forms and the more detailed divorce agreement. For this reason, I suggest hiring a mediator that is a practicing divorce lawyer over a non-attorney mediator. For the purposes of full disclosure, I am a divorce lawyer and mediator, based in Medfield, MA.
So, keep some of your own money instead of paying huge legal fees. If you are having a traditional court-based divorce, remember that almost all cases settle before reaching the trial stage. Why not work towards this reality from the start? Make sure your Medfield area divorce lawyer is skilled in conflict resolution as opposed to just fanning the flames of resentment, control, and anger. Even better, talk to your spouse about the many benefits of the divorce mediation process and schedule a joint meeting with an experienced family and divorce mediator.