Legal fees add up. Really fast. Here are a few ways I was able to save thousands of dollars.
I've worked with fantastic lawyers and a not-so-great lawyer (who I promptly fired). The biggest difference between them is that the great lawyers took the time to provide advice not only on my family matter but also taught me how to save money.
They understood the worst thing about going through divorce is coming out of it all in huge debt that will take years to recover from.
I'll share with you a few things they taught me and a couple extra things I learned along the way.
Get organized early, and stay that way
There will be a ton of paperwork. so much.
Months or years of bank statements,
financial disclosure documents like investments (past and present),
and you'll also accumulate a ton of notes, draft settlement, and court filing documents, etc...
Post-it notes and random papers stacked on the kitchen counter won't cut it. I learned early on that a series of organized folders on my desktop PLUS a physical file-folder system was the only way to go.
When your lawyer asks you for something you need to produce it. Likewise, when your lawyer gives you something that you later lose track of, you'll pay money to have them resend it to you. Don't pay a lawyer to keep your case organized.
Not only does it make it easy for you to keep track of everything it helps you stay sane. Divorce and separation are a complete upheaval of life as we've known it; it's stressful enough. Don't make it worse by being unorganized.
Write your own court documents
That's right. Draft your own court documents. I had an amazing lawyer who helped me save thousands of dollars by having me draft my own court papers. She would review and fix them up, of course. The idea with most lawyers is that you draft notes for them. they;'ll take those notes and put them into the template. From there, you'll review and go back and forth with your lawyer to make changes.
At $300-$450/hr why get them to copy/paste your notes or the notes, they took while you talked? Instead, have them send you the template and do the drafting yourself. Aside from court papers, this is also the way to go when responding to your ex-partner's lawyer. Have your lawyer forward the email they received over to you for a first read and draft reply.
Do your own research
Read up on the federal and provincial laws applicable to your family matter. Also, a great idea is to read CANLII. This is a website that published court judgments from all Canadian courts. This is important because it will help keep your expectations realistic.
For example, you will be able to see how court judgments focus on applying the law according to legal texts and precedence. Each provincial system can be different. And every case is unique the foundations of judgments are quite similar.
The family court system is full of tension and emotion but judgments are not. Family court is not the place to get even with your cheating spouse. To put it bluntly, the court doesn't care and refers to emotional or exaggerated claims in your papers as "noise". In short, they will not award you more money because of how your marriage broke down; their main objective is to apply the law. Period.
A couple of links to help you better understand the laws and how the system works:
You will also find a slew of important information by searching "family law" and "family court system" within your own province.
Limit communication with your lawyer
Lawyers will charge you to return every phone call and email. Some advice I was given early on was to group my questions into one email, or better yet, save them for a phone conversation. I was surprised how much ground we could cover in a 5 or 10-minute phone conversation (and how much money is saved as well).
These are only a few ways to save thousands of dollars in the long run. And by the end of it you just might feel like you've earned half a family law degree ;)