Category: Attorneys’ Fees

Do It Yourself Divorce Disasters

No question, divorce is expensive. The high cost of divorce has led many into thinking they can represent themselves and save some money. The old saying that ‘the attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client’ was learned from years of bitter experience as a case from Canada shows.

do it yourself divorce

A Canadian Do It Herself-er

The Financial Post contains a story about one woman who found out there are no free lunches.

For anyone who wants to protect their rights and maximize their results, the decision to forgo a lawyer and represent themselves will be much costlier in the end.

For example, one Canada divorce ended after a 10-day trial in which a family judge made a final order for alimony and child support, property division, and ultimately ordering the self-represented Wife to pay her husband over $150,000 in attorneys’ fees!

The trial was “more like a sentence than a sojourn.” The trial’s unnecessary length and complications were, according to the judge, attributable to the wife’s conduct and her decision to represent herself.

Board Certified Florida Divorce Lawyer

“Board Certification” in Florida means certification from The Florida Bar, and recognizes an attorney’s special knowledge, skills and proficiency in various areas of law and professionalism and ethics in practice.

Board certified lawyers are evaluated for professionalism and tested for expertise. Certification is the Florida Bar’s highest level of evaluation of the competency and experience of attorneys in the 26 areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

The annual selections are made using a patented multi-phase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law.

Divorce Eh?

With the issues of property and support behind them, the Canadian couple still had one more fight to fight: who would pay the legal costs?

The wife’s decision to represent herself caused the husband to unnecessarily incur substantial legal fees. The wife was ordered to immediately pay the husband costs of $150,000.

In a warning to those who choose to represent themselves to save some money the judge noted:

“it is time that we recognize that there are some persons who can readily afford legal counsel but simply choose to act for themselves because they think that it will provide them a tactical edge in the courtroom.

The Canadian wife’s strategic decision to represent herself caused her to have to pay $150,000. The emotional toll of litigation lasting 17 years is immeasurable.

Had she hired a lawyer, it is possible that the emotional and financial costs of the resolution of the separation could have been reduced significantly. Of course, such a result is now only conjectural.

The Canadian Financial Post article is here.


Temporary Attorneys’ Fees

Canada’s Financial Post has an article explaining temporary attorneys’ fees to get you through a divorce. The process is similar in Canada to here, but then again, there are important difference in attorneys’ fees you should know about.

As the Financial Post asks:

What happens when the parties are not in an equal financial position? As contingency fees are not available in family law, how can a spouse with few assets or little income retain the professionals?

In Canada, the answer is found in the Family Law Rules, which say:

A Court can make an order that a party pay an amount of money to another party to cover part or all of the expenses of carrying on the case, including lawyer’s fees.

The test before interim disbursements may be granted is to show that the case cannot proceed unless the funds are granted. In addition, the party must show that their position is sufficiently meritorious to warrant pursuit, and that special circumstances exist to allow the Court to exercise this extraordinary remedy.

Florida Attorneys’ Fees

Costs can be high in divorce in Florida too. One way to level the playing field of high divorce costs in Florida is to ask one side to pay for attorneys’ fees.

In Florida attorney’s fees may be awarded in a divorce, including enforcement and modification proceedings, separate maintenance, custody and support proceedings and appellate proceedings.

The court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding.

I’ve written about reducing attorneys’ fees through various means before. The purpose of awarding attorneys’ fees is to make certain that both parties in a divorce proceeding “will have similar ability to secure competent legal counsel.”

There are also fees for frivolous cases. A reasonable attorney’s fee can also be awarded to the prevailing party if the court finds that someone brought a claim that was not supported by the material facts the then existing law to those material facts.

Leveling the Playing Field

While temporary attorneys’ fees may sound like a windfall for the recipient spouse, in many complex matters, one spouse alone may spend $50,000 or more on experts’ fees, with legal fees being in excess of that amount in a divorce.

When making an order for interim disbursement, the court has discretion to decide both when the payment must be made by the wealthier spouse, and the way in which a payment will be accounted for.

Often in Canada, the payment is advanced against a future equalization (property) payment owing by the wealthier spouse. In many cases, it is clear early in the litigation that a property payment is owing — the only issue is “how much.”

Courts also have the discretion to order that the payment of attorneys’ fees be advanced as a loan to the recipient spouse, or on account of spousal support.

And sometimes, a court will simply order payment to be “uncharacterized,” meaning that whether or how the payor is credited will be determined in the future by the trial judge.

The Financial Post article is here.


Lower Your Divorce Costs

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Attorneys’ Fees on Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

A post on lowering legal fees by a lawyer may seem contradictory, but not if your attorney is looking out you. Unless your divorce is a friendly ‘conscious uncoupling’, it can be costly. But there are a few things you can do to keep legal fees down.

The Huffington Post recently ran an article on this topic that rings true:

Shop around for an attorney.

Most states have a Board Certification process to recognize expert lawyers. Using an expert, as opposed to someone who also handles criminal defense cases, bankruptcies and slip and falls, will save money over time. Also, many attorneys offer free initial consultations. I do, and encourage people to take advantage of a face to face meeting with your attorney.

Pick Your Battles.

If you intend to argue over every sponge, plant, and towel in your possession, be prepared for an expensive bill. Fight the battles that really matter, like custody and alimony or the house.

Think Before Calling Your Attorney.

Attorneys bill by the hour. If your attorney charges $350 an hour, and you’re constantly calling, you are going to have sticker shock – Those 15-minute phone calls add up, so write down questions and make one call. You may discover you have the answer you need and avoid a call altogether.

Your Attorney is Not Your Therapist.

I recommend seeing a therapist while going through a divorce. Most insurance will cover at least a portion of that cost. Using your attorney or the paralegal doesn’t get you the help you really need and is far more expensive.

Check Your Invoices.

You should be receiving monthly invoices from your attorney. If not, ask for one. Know where your money is being spent, and if there is a mistake on your bill, don’t be afraid to discuss it.

Watch Out for Advice from Friends.

Everyone knows someone who went through a divorce. People want to share what they know. Attorneys hate that. We hate it because no two cases are alike, and people have biases. For instance, people seem to remember what they want to, forgetting the bad parts.

Control Your Emotions

I’ve written before about this common mistake before. When it comes to meetings, mediations, and court, time is money. Be prepared when it comes to mediation, and don’t get angry because you don’t like the offer made. Anger is expensive.

The Huffington Post article can be read here.