Nothing runs up your legal fees in divorce faster than urgent phone calls and late night emails to your lawyer. Dialing your lawyer about custody or possible arrest is reasonable. But some things are not urgent: your blender is not an important part of your divorce (even if it is a “Vitamix”).
But your world is turned upside down right now! That’s why you hired a lawyer – to guide you with pragmatic and unemotional response to your life drama. Here are my top 4 tips that will keep your legal fees in check:
- The Kids Don’t Want Your Junk. “That vase has been in my family for generations,” Beckie explained. Given the separate property of inherited items, Beckie had little to fear, except Todd was threatening to force her to sell the vase as part of the financial trade that would allow her to remain in the marital home. “My kids deserve to inherit that vase,” she whined. “This isn’t fair.” Beckie’s two active teenage boys had zero interest in that vase (or anything outside the realm of their game-systems). Giving your kids your junk is never a reason to forgo a financially sound divorce decision. Chances are the stuff in your house may hold memories of a marriage gone bad.
- Things Can Be Replaced. Everything in your living room, dining room, bedroom and kitchen can be replaced! But you don’t want to replace that stuff because you already own that sofa, so instead you fight over it. You call your lawyer, they call his lawyer, and his lawyer calls him. You will pay hundreds of dollars to fight that could have otherwise been spent to replace those coffee stained cushions with new cushions never graced by your ex’s bottom. Let. It. Go. Or the only people getting new furniture will be your attorneys.
- Petty Visitation Problems. Fighting over precious time with your kids can make your case last forever and cost into the six-figures. Quality time and access is worth it. But not all time is equal and petty time issues can raise the cost of your case. For example: don’t spend Junior’s college fund fighting over who gets the third Wednesday of the month in a leap-year; don’t drive motion practice over who can come to Sissy’s piano recital; and don’t fight about those few hours on a “teacher administrative half day.” Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Your kids won’t remember that alternating leap-year day, but they will remember the vicious fighting and financial ruin that is left behind.
- Random Kid Expenses. In court one day, I watched as two lawyers and their clients were lambasted by the judge for filing a motion over who would purchase the kids’ summer camp shorts. “Please don’t tell me that you are such horrible parents that you need a court order to buy your children appropriate clothing,” the judge scolded. “It is hot outside and you are here so I can make you be good parents?!” But these types of support issues come up when parents let themselves get bitter over the cost. Who loses? You when you spend hundreds in legal fees that could have easily purchased those summer shorts five times over. And your kid at summer camp sweating in last year’s jeans.
Have you suffered from increased legal fees because of furniture fights? Discuss in the comments.