One of the biggest factors in the ultimate cost of your attorney in a family law case is your emotional control. Emotional control helps reduce your legal costs in several ways: It reduces venting time, it prevents “fighting over the silverware” and it keeps resolvable cases out of court.
The more you can control your own emotions, the less you need to vent to your attorney. The less you vent to your attorney, the less time you are billed by your attorney. That, of course, reduces your legal bills. Every attorney is familiar with the client that preceeds every conference or phone call with 30 minutes or more of emotional outpouring. That is a three figure surcharge to every conference and phone call. Your attorney may or may not have the heart to tell you in the middle of your venting that you are costing yourself unnecessary money. Your attorney faces the dilema of coming off as either heartless for stopping you or selfish for billing that time. The fact is that the emotional issues are usually legally irrelevant. It is a bit like telling your mechanic how upset/sad/angry you are. He (apologies to all female mechanics) may be willing to listen, but it’s not going to get your car fixed.
Lack of emotional control also creates unnecessary problems within your case or negotiation. Anger, depression, sadness and vindictiveness clouds judgment. Clouded judgment leads people to pick fights that they would not otherwise choose to fight. This also increases your legal bills. These decisions lead to the stereotypical “fighting over the silverware” cases. If you can keep your emotions out of the legal decisions, you can avoid spending $1,000 to fight for $100 worth of forks and spoons.
Yet another way that emotional override can cost you money is if you are so angry that a rational settlement discussion becomes impossible. Frequently, emotionally out of control clients end up in court because their anger or hurt fueled an expensive need for revenge, punishment or vindication. The fact is that very few clients get revenge or vindication in court. What they do get is a large bill from their attorney. Family Courts are not designed to punish people. Family court judges are not interested in your need for revenge. In fact, a judge may see your anger and vindictiveness as a negative factor in court.
How can you avoid the unnecessary legal expenses of uncontrolled emotion? Divorce coaches and mental health professionals are the best solution. These counselors and therapists have experience working with divorcing and co-parenting clients to manage their emotions. They are far better counselors than any lawyer. And, they are generally significantly less expensive on an hourly basis than your lawyer. An hour with your therapist or divorce coach can save you multiple hours with your lawyer. That is a pretty good return on investment. And, the emotional benefits of working with a therapist or divorce coach cannot be measured in dollars.
For all of the above reasons, I recommend that all of my clients establish a relationship with a therapist or divorce coach early in the process. If you are going through a separation, divorce or custody action, I can provide names of therapists and divorce coaches that can help reduce your ultimate emotional and financial cost.