The 3 Most Expensive Mistakes before and during a Fairfield County Connecticut Divorce
Expensive mistake #1. Paying $500 - $1,000 an hour for your “boutique” attorney.
What a waste of money. Why in the world would you want to pay for their bloated staff, fancy offices, country clubs, Maserati, etc? A “Boutique” family law firm is one that trumpets that they do nothing but family law and use that fact to suggest they are somehow more capable of resolving your case which somehow justifies that exorbitant price tag.
Most partners at these firms charge between $500.00 and $1,000.00 an hour. Their associates charge $350.00 to $500.00 an hour and unless you are a money maker for the firm they are often handed your case to “learn.” Some are 1-3 years out of law school and you are now in their hands!!!
Do you want a 1st, 2nd or 3rd year associate advocating for you or a person with 25+ years’ experience at roughly the same price? Don't forget to ask them how many pending cases they currently have in same court! Will yours get the attention it deserves from the person you thought you hired?
Boutique Firms have to feed their support structure. How do they get those cases and support it? Do you think they tell the people who call what they need to hear every time? Do you think they will risk saying or doing anything the prospective client doesn’t want to hear that might push them away? Use your best judgment and come to your own conclusion.
I call it “Affirmation Law.” They “affirm” whatever the prospective client wants to hear no matter how unlikely or unrealistic. What is the biggest downside to this? Affirmation Law causes huge cost over-runs and increases fees and costs. Why? Because the client has completely unrealistic expectations as to the result they can expect. It alienates the other spouse right off the bat and costs tens of thousands of dollars to get the case back to the band of outcomes where it will ultimately end up anyway.
A bad attorney can hurt you badly and there are no do-overs in a divorce. Do your homework and get to know whoever you hire. If the person doesn't seem to have the time or the desire to let you get to know them as people then move on.
Expensive Mistake #2 – Relying too much on a friend’s advice
“DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES I DID!!” your well meaning friend will yell at you. You need to fight tooth and nail over everything your friend will shout at you. Relying too much on a friend’s negative experience can cost you a lot of money.
There is nothing better than a supportive, reliable friend to help survive and maybe even thrive during what is possibly going to be the most trying experience of your life. Even the most reasonable divorces bring feelings of loss. A friend can be more supportive and important to the healing process than even a therapist (although I highly recommend a therapist as well - and now you can afford one with all that money you are going to save!).
It is also important to differentiate the intentions of the well meaning friend who is just there to love and support you and the well meaning friend who subconsciously is reliving their own divorce and uses your divorce as a way to unload their own anger and bitterness at how their case ended up.
There is no easy way to differentiate between the two types of friends. A friend who has been through the process can offer invaluable advice as to how to avoid certain mistakes. A friend who has been through the process can also see hobgoblins and presume evil intent where they don’t exist if they are not yet past the anger and resentment of their own divorce. I want to be clear, both types of friend mean well and believe they are helping.
How can you tell the difference? I have found over the years that there is one clear indication. One, the supportive and reliable friend, helps you ask the right questions, works through your feelings with you as to what you think is best. The other, the angry and resentful friend, tells you what to do as if each set of variables has one and only one outcome regardless of the circumstances surrounding those variables.
Expensive Mistake #3 - Thrusting your innocent kids into the case unnecessarily
HEY MOM/DAD – WHAT DID WE DO???
Being so pissed off at your spouse that you forget the kids is a risk even for the best of people. When we are hurt, angry, or emotional we rarely make the best decisions. Well, that will happen in a divorce. No way around it in most cases. The difference in cost for a divorce where only financial issues are at stake versus a contested custody case are dramatic. Obviously, there are cases where the health and safety of children demand you fight for what you believe is in their best interest. If your attorney does not push back a little when you bring up custody and highlight the cost and dangers then that is a disservice. Try to resolve the kid issues without involving the kids. It is the right thing to do and it will save money for you to use on them and their needs.
I begin most of my consults or retention meetings with the following – “in every case their needs to be an adult who keeps the kids, if any are involved, at front and center of their thoughts, and if you are going to be my client that will need to be you!”
I want to share a quiet secret – DIVORCE IS NEVER (Ok, maybe rarely ever) BETTER FOR THE CHILDREN IN THEIR MINDS. Divorce stinks for the children unless you are one of that very small percentage of kids that is physically abused by a parent, and even in most of those situations the kids don’t want the parental unit to split up. Books that tell us otherwise have never been through it from a kid’s perspective or have forgotten what they felt like. I went through this as a kid and I speak from personal experience.
Maybe it was better for me down the road, but at the time it was really painful. It will also be hard for your kids. It doesn’t mean it is the wrong course; just don’t convince yourself it is supposed to be “good” for them in short term.
Before hiring that "boutique" attorney give me a call at Bayer & Black, P.C., 203-529-6897. Here is some info about me if interested. I look forward to hearing from you.