Why Arguing is So Expensive in Divorce

Jul 1, 2014

In divorce, time is money.  Most divorce attorneys charge by 6 minute increments.  That means that you are going to pay anywhere from $2.50 to $7.50 or more per minute for your divorce attorney’s work.

Legal BillI would be greatly concerned about using my attorney efficiently.  I would want more money going into my pocket, my kids’ college, or my retirement than to attorneys.

To be sure, skimping on an attorney for a divorce is not a good idea.  That can lead to very expensive mistakes. But, paying more than necessary for your attorney can be avoided.

In my experience, the number one factor in the legal fees in a divorce is not the hourly rate of an attorney.  Rather, it is the amount of time that a client pays an attorney to do things other than help resolve their case.

What you are paying a divorce attorney to do, that no one else can do for you, is to provide you with legal advice and counsel, educate you on the legal issues, help you problem solve by coming up with solutions and then help you draft any legal documents to reflect your agreement or litigated outcome.  In the rare occasion that a case needs to be taken to court, you are also paying for an attorney to build and argue your case.

The time spent doing these core activities alone will generate substantial legal fees.

But, paying an attorney to do anything other than these core activities is largely wasting money.  The number one money waster of all time in legal fees is arguing.  Arguing with your spouse will never convince them that you are right. (See why arguing is not the same as negotiating)  Arguing with your attorney is a waste of time because they are on your side.  When you are arguing, you are not focused on problem solving.  When you are not focused on problem solving, you are wasting time.  When you are wasting time, you are wasting money.

Arguments about issues that are emotionally charged, but legally, financially and practically minor, cost people more money in divorce legal fees than anything else. Examples include the following:  my spouse put my kids to bed 30 minutes later than we agreed; my spouse didn’t send a toy back, my spouse sent a rude text, my spouse’s new girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife said…, etc…

Learn to feel your emotions without letting them control your actions (easier said than done, but crucial nonetheless).  Ignore petty comments and treatment from your spouse (including their significant others, friends and family) if it helps speed a resolution.  You are not ignoring it because you deserve to be treated poorly, but because entering the fray wastes your time and money. It is an expensive trap.

When your emotions take over your actions, your attorney has to spend time calming you down, conduct damage control with your spouse and their attorney, and has to do all of the thinking for you because you are too rattled to think for yourself. You  may fire off angry emails to your spouse that your attorney has to read, but that do not help resolve any of the issues to be resolved.  Your spouse may fire back emails, texts, voice mails, and/or Facebook posts about you that you forward to your attorney for them to see. Divorce lawyers don’t mind doing these things.  They are largely a very caring group of people who are trying to do whatever they can do to help you (stereotypes aside). But, why would you pay an attorney to do all of that at $2.50 -$7.50 per minute?

It is not that there is anything wrong with feeling angry, hurt, betrayed, afraid, stressed or any of the myriad other emotions that come with divorce.  Divorce is emotionally tumultuous. And, you feel what you feel.  You don’t have to justify your feelings to anyone. The point is that when those emotions cause behavior that distracts you from problem solving, then you are wasting time.  And time is money.


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