How To Avoid Costly Legal Blunders during divorce
How to avoid costly legal blunders is a question l am regularly asked. When exploring the possible cost, there are no pricing guarantees because so much is unknown. If everything were straightforward, maybe the world would be a different place. Families starting again would not waste funds on unnecessary arguments and legal fees.
In some cases, you can’t control these costs. Because emotions are high and sometimes common sense is hard to find, but there are a few key areas to look out for.
In my experience, there are two sorts of clients.
- The client who hassles their lawyer endlessly and then screams about the cost.
- Or the client who waits for the lawyer to contact them. Letting the process run its course, which in some cases prolongs the outcome.
Without a doubt finding the middle ground is the key to success. So in this blog, I’d like to give you some tips and tricks. How to avoid costly legal blunders during divorce and get a better outcome from your lawyer.
Let’s assume you’ve already chosen your lawyer. Please review my previous blog for helpful ideas. Five legal mistakes clients make when going through a divorce.
Legal Blunders No 1:
Lawyers are educated individuals who communicate vastly different from how you and I would talk to one another. Their role when representing a client is to remove all emotion out of their correspondence. They are only interested in the facts at hand. So right there is one of the biggest issues I see. Clients not having enough evidence for their lawyer to be able to support their case in correspondence.
So what do I mean by that?
For instance, say you (as the client) suggest a date, that such and such occurred which is now up for debate. If the letter goes to the other side and they reply saying, “We have evidence on the contrary.” Or, “There’s an issue with that point.” It means your lawyer has to go back and refute the issue or apologise for the mistake. In my book The Jelly Bean Jar – I refer to this as a legal dance.
So the way you mitigate this is by having all the facts concerning every issue, point or concern at hand. Sometimes this is hard, but there are ways and means to collect the evidence required in many cases. Dates and times can be confirmed by recollections using social media and putting together a comprehensive relationship timeline of events.
Lawyers are educated individuals who communicate vastly different from how you and I would talk to one another.
When you have the history fresh in your mind, it makes it easier for your lawyer to get a better outcome and provide advice. As an example, it may be a question of assets and liabilities brought into the relationship at commencement.
I encourage my clients to go back to their savings accounts or their old bank statements. Maybe even go into a branch and get proof. That way there is little room for error. And your lawyer is confident knowing this is evidence-based. Having a figure can make all the difference.
This way of dealing with a lawyer can save you a fortune, because I’ve seen it where people will state, “I think it was around this date, or it may have been this much, I’m not quite sure, but that will do.” The lawyer may include this in the correspondence only to receive back, “No, that’s not true and here’s evidence to support our side of the argument.”
So to try and reduce your cost, make sure that you can provide evidence on any point that you have your lawyer put in writing. Not only does it build trust with the lawyer as they’re 100% certain of their argument. In most cases, you have put the point to bed, and it doesn’t need to be debated any longer.
Legal Blunders No 2:
The second costly legal blunders I see being preventable is rewriting draft letters.
And even though I coach my clients not to do it, for some reason, there are certain types of people that can’t help themselves. Red pen warriors I like to call them. If you hire a lawyer to represent your welfare and he/she writes a letter on your behalf, they will normally always do a draft first.
They will send it to you for approval making sure the facts within the document are true and correct before it gets sent to the other side. Now, you must remember that lawyers communicate completely different to you and I. They talk in let’s say ‘alien speak’. And they are communicating with their colleague, who also knows this language.
The letter is not written to your spouse; the letter is for your spouse’s lawyer or legal team. So time and time again I see clients go through a letter for approval and want changes made. Changes which do not make one ounce of difference to the context of the letter.
They simply want words altered or to add in something which may cause an emotional response.
What they don’t understand is, this behaviour is costing them money, money they need for their future. The changes then require the lawyer to spend time updating certain words in the letter, to then be approved again and delaying the communication to the other side.
The letter is not written to your spouse; the letter is for your spouse’s lawyer or legal team
These behaviours delay the outcome and can sometimes have opportunity costs associated. Be smart about your team and trust them to act in your best interest. If you know, you are a micro-manager or want to control the situation remember the consequences and meditate on something more important.
In some instances, there may be words which you know will upset your partner or something within the letter which will cause a meltdown. (Your partner will get to read the correspondence, but their lawyer should be highlighting the content) This is different and needs to be addressed particularly if you are trying to be amicable. But rewriting a whole letter (don’t laugh this has happened) because you don’t like the tone will lose the support of your lawyer, and that is never good.
Legal Blunders No 3:
The third and final costly legal blunders is when clients ring their lawyer and have them on the phone for longer than necessary. Using your lawyer as a therapist is a bad idea and a very costly mistake. If you are paying $450 – $650 an hour for your lawyer and you can go to a counsellor for $100 – $200 an hour, it doesn’t make sense to be ringing up and having the lawyer on the phone for longer than necessary especially about emotional issues.
Have your list of written questions ready and get on and off the call as quickly as possible. Be sharp and to the point, give them information or get the answers you need.
We make sure all our clients have some form of counselling, it is a necessity when you are going through a separation or a divorce to address your emotional circumstances and help with the loss and grief. But your lawyer is not that person. The lawyer certainly needs to know what’s going on from a factual perspective, but talking about issues that have occurred with no bearing on your legal case, is costly and is not fixing the root cores of the problem.
Using your lawyer as a therapist is a bad idea and a very costly mistake.
They are not there as a therapist or a counsellor. If you feel that things are getting out of control and you want them to stand up for your rights, that’s okay. But if you’re not coping emotionally, your lawyer is not the person you should be ringing because all it’s doing is compounding the issues.
Firstly you’re getting a larger bill, and secondly, you’re not addressing why you feel the way you do. That’s what a counsellor or therapist can help and support your address. I hope this article on how you can avoid costly legal blunders can be of help to you!
About the author:
Tanya Somerton is the ‘Divorce Angel’, and helps facilitate a seamless and amicable divorce and separation with the aid of her ‘Army of Angels.’
Providing step by step processes which limits cost and conflict.
Tanya is also the Director of TLC Investment Group, a finance and mortgage company.
The author of the Book, ‘The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering independence through Divorce’. Tanya helps with pre-divorce planning, cost-saving strategies and life after divorce. Purchase your copy here