Going through a divorce or child custody issue can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be hard on your wallet. Attorneys typically ask for a retainer fee before a case begins, and they return anything left over after the case is settled. Sometimes clients get a large portion back; in other cases, they are asked to pay additional retainers or fees because their case was more complicated or drawn out. Today, we share four tips to maximize your retainer so you can get the most back from your family law case.
- Effective Communication – As much as you’d like to be in constant communication with your attorney throughout your case, you might end up with a higher bill if you reach out too much. Sometimes our clients will leave us a voice message and send multiple emails over the same issue. We always advise our clients to stick to one method of communication, because as the saying goes, “Time is money.” If your attorney is spending time listening to your voicemail and reading the three or four emails you sent, that’s time they could be spending more efficiently, which means you might be stuck footing the bill.
Quick Rule: Don’t leave multiple messages about the same issue.
- Organize Your Documents – This tip falls in line with the previous point, but it deserves its own emphasis. When your divorce case begins, your attorney will typically ask for certain documents that are necessary to make your case, like bank statements, mortgage information, stock holdings, outstanding debts, etc. It’s important that you gather all this information and return it to your attorney in a timely fashion. You will be billed for additional time spent on your case if your attorney needs to reach out multiple times to get the required documents.
Quick Rule: Return all required documents in an efficient and timely manner.
- Consider Settling – Settling out of court can sometimes be your best and most cost-effective option. If your case goes to trial, you’ll likely have to pay a trial retainer as well as case-specific costs and additional expert fees. Mediation can seem like an expensive day, but it is much more cost-effective in the long run. If you settle, you are guaranteed a result that you may not have otherwise received.
Quick Rule: In some cases, settling out of court can save you money in the long run.
- Resolve Issues Ahead of Time – The more issues you settle out of court, the less time your attorney needs to spend on trivial issues. Property division and parenting issues can take a long time to negotiate during mediation, but the process can be expedited if you and your ex can come to an agreement about some of the smaller issues. You don’t need to come up with a yearlong schedule that covers who gets the children each day, but discuss which days would work best for each party, and at least broach the topic of holidays and birthdays. If you and your ex can develop a broad plan, it will make it much easier for the attorneys to hammer out the details. The smoother the process goes, the quicker the matter will be resolved, which will save you both time and money.
Quick Rule: If possible, try to resolve some issues with your ex on your own.