A Necessary Evil? How Can You Pay for Your Divorce…

During almost every initial consultation the biggest elephant in the room is cost.  Clients know that getting divorced can be expensive–sometimes prohibitively so.  They also know that divorce lawyers generally bill by the hour at the rate of hundreds of dollars per hour.  When people say they are concerned they cannot afford their divorce they are often referring to paying their divorce lawyer’s fees just as much as they are expressing concern about carrying two households, paying child support, or paying alimony. 

When I first started practicing law we were in the early stages of the “Great Recession.”  Clients could no longer rely upon equity in their home to take care of legal fees at the end of the divorce. Although unemployment is at near all-time lows and the stock and housing markets have rebounded, most Americans do not have $5,000.00 or more laying around for an initial retainer deposit.  Likewise, a divorce cannot be financed directly by a law firm and interest cannot be charged, so lawyers are loathe to play banker.  This may create tension in the relationship and concerns that a lawyer is:

  • “nickel and diming” their clients (only it’s a lot of nickles);
  • Is dragging out the case and/or “overlawyering”; 
  • Working through the retainer quickly and then withdrawing if the client cannot replenish in accordance with the retainer agreement. 
  • Is charging not just for every tiny expense but also every communication. 

These are all legitimate concerns and both attorney and client should discuss the particulars of what is expected and how the case will be handled. In my own practice I attempt to look to studies and surveys about what clients find most dissatisfying about their lawyers and then attempt to implement policies that address such concerns or take the opposite tact. Regardless, there is sometimes miscommunication on both sides… it cannot be assumed that clients read the retainer agreement or fully understand its terms.

Another potential problem is that the biggest issue in any divorce is often not a legal issue or a complicated financial analysis, but rather the raw emotion that may interfere with settlement.  That means that the cost for the divorce of a modest household may not be all that different than the divorce of those with substantially more assets. In most divorces there is at least one party that does not even want to be getting divorced, which may further complicate the emotions of the situation. 

Ways to Pay for a New Jersey Divorce with Carl Taylor Law, LLC 

Paying for a divorce and particularly the initial retainer is thus sometimes difficult (to say the least).  Although I cannot speak for any other firms, I have attempted to make it easy for clients to meet this obligation.  Accordingly, Carl Taylor Law, LLC accepts payments in the following manner:

  • Check;
  • Cash (with receipt given);
  • Credit Card (links for payment through LawPay are given and clients can also pay at the firm’s Flemington, New Jersey location;
  • Money Order

Like many firms, I expect the retainer amount to be replenished.  I encourage clients to call me if they question any portion of their bill to discuss as I would rather know if a client is dissatisfied.  I also attempt to minimize minor pass-through costs such as for telephone calls, faxes, or the like. Moreover, I attempt not to bill for attorney-client communications in divorce matters such as simple calls or emails as I want to keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. 

In some cases I obtain counsel fees from the other party.  Nevertheless, I expect payment from my clients who must then seek reimbursement from their ex.  This too is standard in most New Jersey divorce retainer agreements. I do not like to extend payment plans as I am not a bank and believe there are more appropriate ways for clients to obtain credit.  Nevertheless, I do attempt to work within the confines of cost as cost-benefit analysis for every action contemplated is important for both attorney and client to understand.  I have some cases where clients appear sick of me telling them to wait or not take further action as the cost associated with the action outweighs the potential gains.   Communication between attorney and client is paramount in limiting counsel fees and ensuring a positive outcome in the case. 

A mentor of mine once said it’s difficult to make a living as a “necessary evil.” Even us divorce lawyers will admit that clients would have much more fun spending money on a cruise, piece of artwork, new car, or home improvements.  Few people want to get divorced and paying for the sometimes “necessary evil” of dueling lawyers can exacerbate an already difficult situation.  The added benefit of fully understanding the process and your risks, responsibilities and obligations is the divorce lawyer’s stock and trade. If you want to retain my firm but are uncertain if you can afford it, I hope this article will assist you in understanding the potential payment methods and some of the philosophy behind the divorce attorney-client relationship. 

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.