I was reading a blog this morning about Hiding Assets During Divorce. Yes a little light reading to start my day haha. As a mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst I’m always looking to gain more knowledge that will help my clients. I wouldn’t say that the issue of hidden assets comes up a lot, but it does come up.
I’m writing this blog because I was disturbed by a statement that this US lawyer made during the interview, not because I want to update you on my reading list.
“…hire the best lawyer you can afford.”
Is that really what divorce has come to? If you don’t have money you are at risk of not being properly serviced by a less expensive lawyer?
As with any profession there are good and bad lawyers at multiple price points, fair enough. Is cost really equal to the best though? I think we can safely say that is not always the case.
I have known people that spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers only to end up with nothing or their issues sorted in mediation. Did they not hire the best lawyer? Perhaps they paid a great deal of money and hired a very skilled lawyer but this lawyer’s skills, experience and approach didn’t fit with their needs.
I think it should be the best lawyer for you, not the best lawyer you can afford. Not only am I a divorce professional, I’m also a client. This is practical advice, not legal advice that I am giving.
Shouldn’t all lawyers provide the same level of service regardless of how much they charge an hour? Yes. Some will have more experience, have a fancier office or just be better at specialty work like finding hidden assets or litigating which can impact their fee structure but only if that support is required.
For the majority of people divorce turns expensive when someone feels they have been wronged and are told to find the most expensive lawyer they can to put the screws to their spouse. I would love to see an analysis of the return on that investment.
Know what you are paying for and know who you are paying.
Do you want a ‘shark’ lawyer that will be great in a courtroom and has a reputation for being terrifying? Terrific, spend the money. Have you considered whether this lawyer will be approachable when you need to work with him/her?
Do you want legal advice and reasonable access to your lawyer to discuss issues? Then perhaps the most expensive lawyer is not the route to go. Make sure it is someone you find approachable and listens to you.
Do you want to be supported in a collaborative divorce process or through mediation? This is another type of lawyer again. This lawyer will actually try to talk you out of court and into alternative solutions that may be a great fit for you.
I would argue that the more you pay per hour for your lawyer, the more you pay for your divorce. Not necessarily just in legal costs but in terms of time, emotional stress and compromises.
Before all of the lawyers reading this get up in arms…I realize that some cases are just going to cost a lot! Some are very complicated and should be in front of a judge. Some are very emotional and people will latch onto being right instead of looking at what it is costing them to be right. I also know that sometimes people blindly follow the advice of their lawyer to their own detriment.
It is so important that the final decisions about your divorce strategy and approach are made by you, not your lawyer. You are paying for a service not to hand off your responsibility and decision making power.
If less than 10% of divorce cases go to trial (depending on the stats) that would mean that 90% settle using some other method. A combination of lawyers, mediators, accountants and divorce financial professionals is a great approach. Using each one; as needed, with their specific skill set to help you make informed decisions.
Think about what it is YOU want and find the right lawyer for you. How much they cost should not be the determining factor.
Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA
Owner Separation Coach.com