1- Be realistic. This is the easiest and most important thing you can do. Tell your attorney what your goals and concerns are. Then ask him/her to give you an honest and objective assessment of how realistic the goals are, and what are likely and realistic outcomes.
2- Get copies of all important financial documents and other important papers to reduce the cost of discovery. Discovery is a tool available to your attorney to ask the opposing party to provide documents and information. This tool is both useful and can be expensive. If you have copies to provide to your attorney you have saved yourself both time and money.
3- Call the paralegal, not the attorney. Your attorney’s paralegal cannot give you legal advice, but often I find my clients call me to ask a question that my wonderful paralegal can answer. Example - When is that next hearing?
4-When you call, have a reason and be prepared. Put together a list of questions when you call your attorney. It is much more productive, and often there are interconnected issues that are easier to address in a single longer phone call than in ten shorter ones.
5- Understand the value of compromise. I hear all the time, “I want the judge to tell him/her”….. well ok, but let’s talk about cost to prepare and litigate. A case in court will cost (x) number of dollars, and if we have a reasonable settlement it will cost (y). Often there is no upside to court. Make sure your attorney explains this, and ask him or her for an analysis of these costs. Focus on the goal, not the emotion.
6- Choose an attorney and stick with him/her. Do your research up front and choose an attorney that suits your needs, personality, and is willing to work towards your goals. Hiring and firing attorneys is extremely expensive.
7- Obey Court Orders. Ok, you may have lost, or you may not like how the judge as ruled. Do your best to follow the Order because not doing so can be expensive often resulting in you having to pay the attorney’s fees of the ex-spouse. There are ways to attempt to modify, set aside, or appeal an Order. Talk with your attorney about options.
8-Ask first! I had a client hire a private investigator to record a bunch of phone conversations between his wife and her paramour (I love that word). Great, cost to client was $2300 bucks; oh, and congratulations he also violated a whole host of Federal and State laws! More importantly, the information was worthless to me as his attorney as it is illegal and unethical to use. The silly part of it all was that she had already admitted to the affair! There was no need to spend this money and risk violating the law. Had he asked me first, I could have advised him not to do this.
9-Be Honest. Attorneys need to know what is going on; we need the facts so we can advise you. If you withhold facts from us, hide assets, or otherwise mislead us as to the situation we are trying to help you with, it becomes expensive fast. Tell us up front so we can give you a plan of action. A plan is far less expensive to prosecute than responding to surprises.
10-Just because you can, does not mean you should. Be careful about using every single legal maneuver trick, game or position available to you, just to do it. In every case there are options that are legally available to you. The answer, however, is to use the options that you will get the most benefit from. Again, speak with your attorney and make sure that what he /she is about to do has a return value associated with it.