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DIY Divorce Guide

Avoiding High Legal Fees in Divorce | Smart Divorce

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The gladiator divorce lawyer loves a good fight -- one that his or her clients pay for. Even before he or she takes the case, the gladiator -- also known as a "bomber "or attack lawyer -- regales clients with boastful tales of courtroom victories that demolished the other side. "I had the husband so confused on the stand that the judge finally had to jump in and call a recess." He or she shuns mediation and collaborative efforts and considers settlement only when his or her opponent is on the floor and pleading for mercy. Hiring this type of divorce lawyer makes avoiding high legal fees next to impossible. We are in no way classifying all divorce lawyers into this category. There are many good ones out there that act in the best interests of their clients. Most good divorce lawyers do all they can to resolve issue for their clients with a special concern for the emotional and financial burdens that exist.
Three Good Reasons to Think Twice

Hiring a gladiator to punish an alienated spouse is a very bad idea for three good reasons. First, except in extremely egregious cases, most courts do not financially punish a party for being a bad person. Second, hiring an attorney to punish a spouse costs more because he or she spends more time on the case. Increased attorney hours means higher divorce costs, and higher divorce costs consume the assets that the parties need to start over after the divorce in granted. Negotiating a settlement without anger means treating it as a business negotiation. Third, combative lawyers thrive in court battles but these same court battles take a staggering emotional toll on the divorcing spouses. The couple who end a marriage in court leave that court lifetime enemies (and then often struggle to be good coparents).

How the Gladiator Divorce Lawyer Operates

Gladiators often feed the fire to encourage clients to fight. From the beginning, even before the client signs the contract, the gladiator primes the client for warfare. The gladiator presents an optimistic assessment of the case. If his or her spouse had come the same day and presented the very same facts, the gladiator would have given that spouse an equally optimistic assessment from their perspective. As one gladiator put it, "I gave you an optimistic assessment of your case from your perspective, then one of my colleagues gave your spouse an optimistic assessment of the case from your spouse's perspective. Together, we worked - knowingly or unknowingly - to convince both of you that the other is being unreasonable and that you each needed us to win you a better deal."

The gladiator wants to control contact and communications between the spouses, so he or she can control what information to provide and what "spin" to put on it. Thus each spouse becomes more suspicious of the other, and more dependent on the gladiator.

The gladiator prepares for the worst outcome of the case -- going to court -- from the beginning. Even with better than a 93% chance that the case will settle before trial, he or she prepares for court. This means lengthy, wasteful and expensive discovery, including interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, and depositions.

Not fighting during the divorce saves money, expedites healing, and empowers a party during a time when he or she feels overwhelmed.

Divorcing couples that spend hours in their lawyer's offices (or on the telephone) refusing to cooperate enjoy the illusion of victory. This does not mean playing dead. To be clear, sticking up for yourself is a separate issue: The spouse steals money from a joint account, tries to abduct the children, or binges on a joint account or credit card must be dealt with. But much of divorce might be called the "negotiables," like where young children spend Thanksgiving, or who keeps the Bob Dylan records. Often in divorce, people want to "win," so they dig in and fight for everything. Fighting costs money. A lot of money. It requires that constant back and forth between the client and the other spouse, and both lawyers.

The Price of a Highly Contested Divorce

Depending on where you live, a divorce lawyer can cost anywhere between $100-$500 an hour. And those hours add up. Not fighting speeds healing. The sooner the spouses agree on the terms and conditions of their divorce -- splitting assets and liabilities, custody and visitation -- then the sooner the case is finalized and the sooner the divorce is granted. That means you are able to move on with the next chapter in your life. When divorce becomes war, people battle because they are hurting, scared, confused and angry. They project that pain into decisions during the divorce. They fight to win the divorce, and "get back at" the spouse who caused pain. This tit-for-tat can go on for months and years, draining both of them emotionally, mentally and financially.

Absent fighting, couples can take the high road, and they can accept the end of a failed marriage so that they can forgive and move on. This is nearly impossible if they are still fighting over every perceived wrong. Moreover, children pick up on the sorrow, the anger, and the angry words their parents say about each other.

Although statistics differ, an average contested divorce can cost $15,000-$30,000. Put another way, the divorce becomes a ticket to the poorhouse.

When dealing with a lawyer in a divorce, heed the wisdom of New York attorney: "Keep your lawyer on a tight leash." And skip the gladiator altogether.

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