Family law is a challenging area of law to practice. As a litigant involved in a family law matter, it is that much more challenging. Besides the emotions you tend to experience and the constant differences you face with your spouse or ex, you are involved in unfamiliar legal territory. On top of that, you actually have to pay an attorney to help resolve your family law challenge. In custody battles, you can spend over $15,000 without even getting to trial. The primary purpose of this brief article is to help you to understand the uncertainty in litigation as well as the costs involved and strongly encourage you to consider resolution by settlement as early as possible.
I tell all of my clients and prospects that there are no guarantees in law. You can have the case law and the facts on your side and still lose in court. Family law cases are not taken by attorneys on a contingency basis. You are typically required to pay anywhere from a $2500 retainer to $15,000 retainer depending on the issues. For most people, that is a hefty sum. If a resolution is expected, the retainer may be more reasonable.
Most attorneys charge for each minute of their time. It is important to focus on the issues that your attorney can help to resolve as opposed to the emotional issues for which you may need counseling. Be aware that your litigation options depend greatly upon what you are willing to spend and what may required of you and/or your attorney by opposing counsel.
Mediation is a great alternative to litigation. If you settle at or before Mediation you can save a lot of money. In order to be fully prepared for Mediation you and your former partner should have already exchanged all financial information at least one week in advance. It is imperative to be open-minded at the Mediation in order to potentially save a considerable sum and reach a compromise. Please always keep in mind that a failure to settle will lead to more attorney fees and more costs to be incurred. Of course, this is true at any point in the lawsuit. Thus, the earlier you can agree to child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and/or any other issue the better.
As I said earlier, there is no attorney that can ever guarantee you a particular result. She may be confident that you will be a victor, but there is no certainty that you will be. Some attorneys are very comfortable running up a litigation tab in order to attempt to get an advantage at trial or merely to be a nuisance. Every motion, every letter, every e-mail involving the work of your attorney is billed. Review your bills closely and ask questions.
Your costs may include a forensic expert to help you determine your Husband’s ability to pay alimony. These costs can easily surpass $5,000 depending on the complexity of the issues. Your costs typically include travel, copies and process servers. If you do not settle and trial is required be prepared to pay a trial retainer of at least $5,000. So, where do the greatest costs lie? They are not financial. They are emotional. While they are hard to estimate or measure, but they are real. While every day may be day closer to resolution or judicial adjudication, your next chapter can begin much sooner by settlement than by trial.
In conclusion, I urge you and your former partner to do whatever you can, with or without attorneys, to focus on resolution. Ultimately, if you cannot settle, realize the fees and costs you are likely to incur and closely examine your bills. Ask questions about your bill and review your first bill directly with your attorney (at no charge, of course!). While you may not control each aspect of the litigation, you can always control your reaction. Be wise, be strong and recognize the risk. In order to learn more information about divorce, equitable distribution and other family law issues, please visit my website, www.scottjbrookpa.com or email me at Scottbrook@scottjbrookpa.com.