Are Lawyers a Must in Divorce?

“The real slavery of Israel in Egypt was that they had learned to endure it.”

Robbi Hanokh

 

Yes, it’s often necessary to work with lawyers, especially in our litigious society.  No one can craft phraseology to  protect and promote our interests better.   Since I’ve worked with them in a variety of ways over the past 25 years, I honestly think  many start with good intentions, a strong sense of justice, and the desire to help the needy (or greedy), oppressed, or wronged parties.  But I must say, going through my divorce,  I was as stressed working with them as I was with my ex.  A lot had to do with the money the cost me – really.  I imagine this is a primary stressor for most clients.

In my extended divorce, I sometimes I wanted to ask a single simple question, but didn’t want a .4 hour, $120 bill for it.  Should I try the paralegal, cheaper instead?  I thought, like most do.  Should I email –  do they charge the same.  I actually asked one paralegal what the most cost-effective way to communicate with her office was, but got no answer (concluding whatever that was they wouldn’t promote it).  I thought, “Maybe I’ll just go online,” and would often end up more scared and confused.

Another beef:  many seem to not simply give you direct, needed information.  This is really what you need once they understand, and it’s usually quickly cause most are pretty smart, the peculiarities of your case.  So why don’t they simply give you simple, direct advice that would save everyone a lot of pain, money and stress (well not the lawyers)?  I conclude, and I’m sure I’m not alone, that our ignorance equals cha-ching for them. $$$$$ So stupid questions, yes most of us don’t know what the hell we’re doing and are scared shi***less because we’ve never done this before, ask dumb stuff, which requires a response which adds to billable time.  I’ve seen even the most admirable lawyers do this.

Then you see those signs on the highway driving through cities that say, “Divorce, $199” and you think, I spent that before I said hello to my lawyer.

div

How long will I hold my distaste for lawyers?  I’m hoping God erases this part of my memory soon, because I really don’t like them or even the feelings I carry about them. (And I’m in good company with Shakespeare and others through the ages). After talking with others about their divorce lawyers for a few years now, almost all of them really hated their lawyers.  The 3 exceptions were women who’s husbands just rolled over.

Even in the past – working with Legal Aid Society – I admired those men and women a whole lot.  But like all things, over time, one can become calloused, distanced from the humanity involved – I guess in a similar way nurses can seem efficient often, but you just really wish when you’re scared and out of your element, that they’d bring you a smile and a cookie, and hold your hand for half a minute  – with no charge involved.  Of course that doesn’t happen. One of my lawyers suggested, “You don’t want to pay me to be your counselor.”  He was  right, but I still would have loved a smile and a cookie at that particularly scary time.

Sorry to all toes unfairly stepped on.  I do love America and free speech.

Best Bets:

  • Ask the law firm you hire for a flat fee divorce.
  • Go to AVVO to at least get some feel for their credibility.  Some lawyers don’t charge for brief emails – another good value that brings peace of mind.  At least make sure the law firm office staff make you feel warm and fuzzy.
  • Build your support network – find other’s who’ve been there who will hold your hand,  offer you a cookie (see meetup.com for groups), and save you lots of money in attorney and counseling fees.
  • Consider the collaborative divorce approach.  Litigation creates animosity between parties – if you’re fairly sure you can get along with your spouse through the process, collaboration leaves everyone less antagonistic and with more money in their pockets.

Previously blogged:  Working With Lawyers

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About Dee

I teach English at a local community college and am raising two children; I like to paint, write, pray, read, hike and travel.
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