How can I save money in attorney's fees after I've hired a lawyer for my divorce or paternity case?
Updated: Sep 1
So, you've bitten the bullet and slapped down a big retainer to hire an attorney for your divorce, paternity or modification case.
Now, are there any ways to save money so you can stretch that retainer out as long as possible and maybe even avoid that dreaded call from your attorney's office asking you to replenish that retainer?
The answer is yes.
My first recommendation is to actually do what your attorney advises you to do. When I have to constantly remind my clients to turn in their paperwork or to send in their next payment, or to answer questions that I've answered before or that can be found in your paperwork, it ends up costing you more money. We work off an hourly rate, so any time spent on your case costs you money. -- Even when it involves duplicative work. Complying with the requests of your attorney will save you money. I promise you wholeheartedly, we are not asking you to do things because it is amusing to us.
On a related note, read everything your attorney gives or sends to you. One thing I notice early on in a case, is that some clients skim through my initial questionnaire and fail to answer certain items that they don't realize are crucial to preparing the very first pleadings in their case. This can result in the attorney either tracking you down to get the answer or later, searching through potentially hundreds of pieces of paper to find the answer. Not only does this interrupt my 'flow' when I'm working, incerasing the time to re-orient myself with the document I'm working on (obviously adding extra time to your bill), but it also poses a risk that in changing focus, an important issue is overlooked. I was in court the other day watching the end of a hearing, where the focus was on alimony, and the attorneys had fought hard over the issue for months. Turns out, the lawyer seeking alimony had forgotten to actually add it to his pleadings and so his request was stricken.
Take heart though, this is a very uncommon occurrence. In general, pleadings can usually be amended before trial, so if you've forgotten to include something in your initial paperwork, it likely can be added later. But, if cost is a serious concern for you, diligently reading and responding to your attorney's communications can be a great way to save money on fees, which can add up over the life of your case.
Stay tuned to my blog to learn other ways you can stretch out your attorney's fees to get the most out of your retainer.