Welcome to another edition of Bouschor Family Law Radio. Today we’re asking a question that a lot of people always wonder about: How much is this divorce going to cost?
David: Well, I only have this conversation with every one of my clients. And, it is so specific to everybody’s own case that it’s very difficult to give anybody a pat answer. The big issues are what is involved in your case, and this could be whether you have children or not. It also depends on the size and makeup of your estate. Texas is a community property state, but one of the exceptions to community property is separate property, and if you have separate property you have to spend more time on that item. The bottom line is: preparation and working from the beginning to keep your costs down is something that both your attorney and the client need to be responsible for. You really want to have certain projects that you start early. If you don’t end up using that information, it’s not that the information wasn’t used–if it wasn’t necessarily used in court, it will most likely be used in the settlement. Knowledge in being able to make an informed decision generally is something that takes preparation. Most people think they understand their estate, and they may understand their estate from a layman’s point of view, but they may not understand their estate from a legal point of view. And when you’re in a divorce, you are in a legal setting. So things like making sure that you have inventories done, that any sort of studies that have to be done are started early so they’re completed on time. All of these ultimately keep the cost down and keep surprises from happening.
Tim: And one of the factors that come into play also is who the spouse hires as the attorney on the other side.
David: Without a doubt there are several different ways of practicing law. And in family law, you can find people that want to overwork things, over litigate things, and basically make an easy case tougher. Some clients actually instruct their attorneys to go out and make the other side miserable. These are things that cost time, cost money, and very rarely are they going to change the results of the settlement and/or the trial by the time you get through. Now, the pie will be smaller, but it didn’t necessarily create any advantage to the client.
Tim: The other piece of this is that this is a really important transaction in the course of these people’s lives, and you don’t want to do it on the cheap.
David: Well, that’s very true. This is probably the biggest business deal that most people are going to do in their entire life. And while you can equate it to a business deal, and for a lot of the property you can talk about it in dollars and cents, there’s also a huge emotional and relationship part of a divorce. For instance, if you have children, being able to sit at the same table with your now ex-partner when your children get married, what is that worth? There’s probably a dollar figure that everybody could equate to that themselves, but that’s a personal choice. So yes, there are dollar figures that you can attach to all these decisions, but most of these decisions have to be made by the client after they’ve been informed.
Tim: That being said, as someone prepares to go into the divorce process, are there some things that they can do to minimize the cost?
David: Yes, when somebody hires our office, we actually give them homework. They have homework involving their inventory, they have homework involving their children, and they have homework as far as kind of self-education on the Texas Family Code. All of these things can be done by the client at no or little cost to them, and it not only prepares them but it also lets them know what they may not know. And often when you start a divorce you don’t know what you don’t know, so it creates questions that you can then go over with your attorney so that you are better educated to make decisions down the road.
Tim: This has been another edition of Bouschor Family Law Radio.