Why is My Divorce Legal Bill so High?!

The answer often depends… Here are a few reasons:

  • Like hiring a realtor to sell your house your lawyer must be:
  • You must have real trust in your attorney after carefully reviewing the above and then actually “listen and do” what he/she says or you will be fool that gets yourself in trouble by:
    • Continuing to reveal too much to your X once the divorce has been filed
    • Threatening your X in any way
    • Not protecting your confidential discussions, documents, financial records, email, texts, computer access, files and other important information your X can and will use against you even if there is no wrong doing!
    • Be prepared to not create a blizzard of non-essential documents, emails, and phone calls to your attorney!
    • Work your counseling and other resources to “vent emotionally.” Venting emotionally to your attorney at $250 or $350/hour is not smart on ANY level. He/she is your attorney and while they may understand this is a very emotionally taxing time for you, they are your legal advisor and certainly NOT your Psychotherapist!

A few true stories:

A northern Chicago based attorney charging $450/hr meets his client at night at the Barnes & Noble bookstore to listen to her “vent.” At $450/hr you just go ahead and talk…

A woman given all bank account information and records from her X husband’s business just can’t believe there isn’t more money in the business because BEFORE the recession her X was very successful. Paranoia setting in this woman fired her attorney who she believed would get her everything she wanted in 3 months. Now the second attorney tells her “Oh don’t you worry…we’ll simply subpoena all the banks he does business with and get the TRUTH!” So another $5,000 for the subpoenas to several financial institutions along with all the charges for thousands of copies of statements, courier services and duplicate copies for her client and for the X husband’s attorney reveals the EXACT SAME DOCUMENTS the X husband had already given her in discovery! Shortly thereafter this attorney tried to use unethical pre-court tactics by asking for the parties and their attorneys to meet for 15 or 20 minutes BEFORE court, then when in front of the Judge this attorney lied by telling the Judge “your honor the parties have come to an agreement on….” when nothing of the sort had happened!

A man hired a high powered aggressive attorney that told him “no problem! We’ll take care of this! I know how to handle this and get you where you want to go! I just need a $5,000 retainer to start.” The aggressive attorney wound up insulting the Judge and lost his client’s case. Of course, there was no money left for hours billed in the initial retainer.

A man took the Honda Ridgeline new truck for himself when he left the marital home. He was not a contractor and did not need the truck, but it was new and left his X wife during the divorce with an old broken down mini-van which he refused to pay for repairs including brakes even though his X was a housewife with no career and little money. The X wife successfully had her attorney argue in court along the following lines. “Your honor my client has no way to pay for the repairs on her minivan which she uses to take the kids to and from school and their activities and has repeatedly asked her X to fix the van. He refuses.” X husband’s attorney argues “Your honor there is NOTHING wrong with the minivan, it’s a fine vehicle and my client is being asked for repairs that are not needed!” Judge “Well since there is nothing wrong with van, I’m ruling that you are to switch vehicles with your X wife pending final asset settlement.”

Finally, consider this. The attorneys on BOTH sides yours and his/hers has access in discovery to ALL THE FINANCIAL RECORDS of both your and your X. The attorneys on both sides can and do talk to each other on the phone without you being present! After many years of practice both attorneys have often “encountered each other with many other previous cases.” Think about it. Both attorneys MAKE THEIR LIVING off fees and they know what you and your X are able to pay because they have all the financial records. Will they recommend motions in court, tactics and strategies that lead to the least expense for you?

Source: https://family-law.lawyers.com/divorce/divorce-lawyers.html  Average attorney fees for divorce were $10,000, typically ranging from $9,000 to $14,000.  Nationwide, the typical fee that people paid their divorce attorneys was $250 per hour, but in metro areas, fees ran closer to $400 or $500 per hour.

The lowest hourly rate reported in our survey was $50 per hour, reported in Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The highest rates were $500 per hour in California and D.C. and a whopping $650 hourly fee in New York.

Children in Divorce Have and Need Both Parents

This is an extreme example from this evening’s ABC National News, but it is illustrative of what the judge in the video states “Both parents get a say.” In my case the Joint Parenting Agreement (JPA) is very important in avoiding disputes and my attorney did a masterful job of developing it over decades of family law practice, but when disputes happen and are serious you can wind up right back in court.

In order to avoid post decree litigation it was very important for me to participate in healthy divorce recovery groups from church, 12 step groups such as Codependents Anonymous See: http://coda.org/ , seeing a good therapist and it was very important to forgive my x and myself. That took years of work and it’s still far from perfect, but then again when you’re married you don’t agree on everything either!

Marriage is Not to be Undertaken Lightly

Depending on whether you believe in God or practice a faith based religion your views will differ on this subject. There is definitely a negative interaction between marriage in a church and civil marriage laws. I say this because in so called “no fault” divorce states of which are the majority. See sources below. Either party can run into court and say “no fault” and take half the marital assets going their separate way. 

Of course, many of us have had our awareness to this sharpened and realize that without a good prenuptial agreement (even if there are few assets at the beginning of the marriage) either party can be “taken to the cleaners,” with little effort and no fault.

Think carefully. How long have you known this person before you marry? Does this person have a career, job and is he/she capable of supporting themselves if the marriage dissolves? If not, then the party that is making the money will be on the hook for “maintenance” (previously known as alimony) and if there are children, child support.

Couples often make sure they have a Will and Estate Plan that takes into account who will raise their children and get their assets if they die, but so many of us failed to see the looming danger of marriage dissolution in the majority of U.S. states where either party can simply dissolve the marriage for any reason with no fault and take half the marital assets.

Years ago I was asked by a business colleague about getting married and as the conversation evolved toward the business end of marriage I simply said, “If you love her, you don’t have to be married to prove it. You are just as capable of being faithful and loving whether you enter into the civil laws in the state you’re married in or not, but you will be better protected by having your own civil law (contract or prenuptial agreement) because so many states are ‘no fault’.” If you decide to risk it, then ask yourself ‘am I OK with giving half of all my assets to this person if the marriage should end for ANY reason?’ If the answer is yes, then marry her.” My friend did not marry and I believe he made the right choice.

“All states offer some version of no-fault divorce. California was the first to pass no-fault legislation in 1970, while New York brought up the rear by finally passing a no-fault law in 2010. As a result, no matter where you live, you can get a divorce by simply telling the court that your marriage is over. You no longer have to prove that your spouse caused the breakup. The similarity ends there, however. Individual states put their own spin on no-fault rules.” Source: www.info.legalzoom.com/states-nofault-divorce-states-20400.html

“States with No-Fault Divorce and No Waiting Period

The states that offer no-fault divorce without requiring a period of separation are: Alaska Arizona California Colorado Florida Georgia Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Maine Massachusetts Michigan Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska New Hampshire New Mexico North Dakota Oklahoma Oregon South Dakota Washington Wisconsin Wyoming

In these states, a couple may obtain a no-fault divorce without first meeting any separation requirement. Some of these states also offer legal separation instead of divorce.

 

No-Fault Divorce With Separation Requirement

Some states require the parties to live apart for a minimum length of time before seeking a no-fault divorce. The length of time required varies by state and ranges from 180 days to five years. The states that require a period of separation, and the minimum length of separation, are:

Alabama – 2 years, Connecticut – 18 months, Hawaii – 2 years, Idaho – 5 years, Illinois – 2 years, Louisiana – 180 days, Minnesota – 180 days, Nevada – 1 year, Ohio – 1 year, Pennsylvania – 2 years, Rhode Island – 3 years, Tennessee – 2 years, Texas – 3 years, Utah – 3 years, West Virginia – 1 year

No-Fault or Fault Divorce

Some U.S. states offer both a no-fault and a fault divorce option. Couples who do not want to observe the waiting period requirement are allowed to file for fault divorce. Some common grounds for fault include cruelty, adultery, desertion, confinement in prison or a similar institution, and inability to perform sexual intercourse, if this was not disclosed prior to the marriage. States that offer both no-fault and fault divorce include:

Alabama Alaska Connecticut Delaware Georgia Idaho Illinois Maine Massachusetts Mississippi New Hampshire New Mexico North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah West Virginia” Source: www.livestrong.com/article/100998-states-fault-divorce/  

Marriage and Midlife Crises

I’m reposting one section from an email I received from Michele Weiner-Davis Oct. 3, 2017 newsletter with a link to her full site. I will say that I have found her insights to be invaluable to me and I benefitted from one of her personal coaches when I was going through my divorce to a wife of 18 years that went to her 30th high school reunion and connected with an old crush that was at that time married and living in LA.

…”If you’re going through a midlife crisis and you’re married, it’s important to understand that your marriage might be at risk. 

When you’re unhappy, you look around for the cause of the unhappiness. And sometimes the person standing closest to you-your spouse-is in the line of fire.

You think about how differently your life might have turned out were it not for your spouse holding you back in some way.

You tell yourself you would be better off striking out on your own or finding a new, more supportive, sexy, fun-loving spouse with whom you can spend the rest of your life.

What could be a better escape from all the thinking you’re doing about what’s not working in your life than to find someone with whom you can have a fresh start, who finds you fascinating and exciting?

While it’s possible that your marriage has been less than satisfying and in need of a major makeover, it’s important not to make any monumental, life-altering decision such as having an affair or ending your marriage while you’re feeling overwhelmed with powerful emotions.

Making an impulsive decision to break up a marriage or have an affair often leads to a deep sense of regret or remorse…” Source: http://www.divorcebusting.com  

Divorce Varies from State to State and within each State from County to County

One of the issues that people encounter is described in the posts below. The first is from the PBS News Hour and the second from a law firm. I have no affiliation with the law firm. I simply did a Google search.

I want you to be aware that even within the same state. I live in Illinois, the county laws and “local rules” vary. Therefore, it is a myth to think you can get the same divorce state to state or county to county. In Illinois one of the “games” divorce litigants play is to try to move their divorce and/or themselves into a different county that may be more advantageous to their legal objectives.

In my non lawyer experience many ladies involved in divorce have attempted to move into or use the Cook County (Chicago) jurisdiction because they perceived it would be more favorable to their gaining full custody of children. We can argue about the ethics, but I will not engage in such debates. My only objective is to make people aware. Knowledge is power and let your conscience, your lawyer and your Higher Power or God if you are a believer be your guide.

Is it time for a national divorce law too?

BY LAURENCE KOTLIKOFF  June 26, 2015 at 4:13 PM EDT

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http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/isnt-time-national-divorce-law/

“One of the biggest issues some married couples face when they move across state lines is how they will fare if they get divorced. (And, again, almost half will untie the knot.) The answer may be far better or far worse depending on the state and even the county in which you reside. I say “may,” because if you reach an amicable settlement, that settlement may be legally approved no matter where you live. But if you have a contested divorce and end up leaving it up to a judge, she’ll likely apply state or county guidelines that can be very different depending on the state or country. Indeed, since only a few states and counties in the country have formal guidelines, the guidelines are mostly those set by the local judge. These judges are, of course, influenced primarily by what other judges in their locality and state are doing.”

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Different States, Different Divorce Laws

Purpose of the Guide

I recently recognized the recovery help I received from a combination of sources including those from divorce recovery at churches I attended,  counseling, and independent divorce recovery support groups were all lacking individually, but brought together as a whole, were substantial.

Therefore, the purpose of this guide is to “bring together” resources from many diverse areas in an effort and with my Higher Power’s help to help others.

Jim Bilello

Oct. 1, 2017

About the Divorce Recovery Blog

This is the post excerpt.

I recently recognized the recovery help I received from a combination of sources including those from divorce recovery at churches I attended, counseling, and independent divorce recovery support groups were all lacking individually, but brought together as a whole, were substantial.

Therefore, the purpose of this guide is to “bring together” resources from many diverse areas in an effort and with my Higher Power’s help to help others.

Jim Bilello

Oct. 1, 2017

post