Divorces are like having your car break down. They are wildly inconvenient, expensive, and affect every aspect of your life. Whether you’re hiring a lawyer to represent you fully or managing the case on your own with some help from a lawyer, you will likely spend at least a thousand dollars if thousands of dollars on your case.
So how do people afford it? Here are six dos and don’ts for paying for your family law case:
1. DO pay your fees and costs with money from your bank account or charge your credit card. Even though bank accounts are generally marital assets and credit cards are marital debts, Colorado courts have held that you can use them to pay for your legal fees and court costs. If one person spends more than the other, that may ultimately be accounted for in the final agreement or court order regarding the distribution of assets and debts.
2. DON’T expect the other person to pay for your fees and costs. Unless you have a premarital or marital agreement that says otherwise, you are generally responsible for your own fees and costs, except that they may be allocated in the division of your marital assets and debts.
3. DO borrow money from family members, friends, banks, or other reliable people and institutions. The reality is that not everyone has cash or credit at their disposal to fund their divorce. You may need to ask your friends, family, bank, or another reliable institution for a loan. Asking for help can be tough, but know that you are not the only person it this position.
4. DON’T sell your valuable belongings or liquidate your investment assets until after you have reached an agreement or the court has decided who those items actually belong to. It may be tempting to sell valuable items like sports equipment, cars, jewelry or to cash out that 401k to help with your cash flow, but you should try your best to resist the temptation. Even if you always thought that an item or account was yours, there is a high likelihood that the court will say it is a marital asset, meaning that it is subject to division through the divorce process. If you sell those items without the consent of the other person, the court may interpret that as dissipating marital assets.
5. DO make sure you hire a lawyer who you can afford and who can explain to you how they charge their fees. Part of a lawyer’s job (or their support professionals’ job) is explaining to clients how they charge their fees and at what rate. You should hire a lawyer whose fees you understand and believe you will be able to pay. Most lawyers won’t be able to tell you how much your case will cost up front, but they will be able to give you a general idea and explain what types of things can make your case more expensive.
6. DON’T hire the lawyer whose rates you don’t understand. Most lawyers will admit that they are not mathematicians. As a result, we often avoid conversations about numbers. However, if your lawyer cannot clearly explain to you how they charge their fees and at what rate, that is a sign that you will probably have other communication challenges down the road.
At Bluebird Law, we explain our fees up front, bill on a flat rate no matter how much time it takes, and never send you a surprise bill at the end of the month. That way, you pay for what you need, and not for what you don’t. If you’re in Colorado and you need help with your family law case, schedule your free consultation with Shannon today.
This article is informational and does not purport to give legal advice.