Alaska Divorce Blog : Anchorage Divorce Lawyer & Attorney : Peggy Roston Law Firm : Property Division, Child Custody, Alimony : Juneau, Fairbanks, Alaska

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The Law Firm of Peggy Alayne Roston

An informative weekly blog about divorce

Tips To Help You Avoid Sky Rocketing Attorney's Fees

Divorce litigation is extremely expensive eldad lieberman bio. Your attorney will charge you for the time he or she spends writing and responding to letters, emails, and motions. Some of the time your attorney has to spend on your case is unavoidable. But there are a few things that you can do to help your attorney handle your case in a cost-effective manner.

• Communicate by e-mail rather than by telephone. Telephone calls tend to be more expensive because of the pleasantries exchanged before you and your attorney get down to business.

• Keep your e-mails short and to the point. Your attorney may receive hundreds e-mails a day. If you keep your emails short and to the point, your attorney can respond quickly to the issue you have raised without having to wade through a lengthy email.

• Organize your financial documents before you give them to your attorney. Parties in a divorce case must exchange tax returns, credit card statements, brokerage statements, bank statements, and personal property lists. Respond promptly to your attorney’s request for financial information. If you have personal or work time-constraints, I suggest you call your attorney to ask for a referral to a financial professional who can help you out. Having organized financial documents can save you hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees or paralegal fees and can keep your case moving forward.

Tips To Help You Avoid Sky Rocketing Attorney's Fees

Divorce litigation is extremely expensive. Your attorney will charge you for the time he or she spends writing and responding to letters, emails, and motions. Some of the time your attorney has to spend on your case is unavoidable. But there are a few things that you can do to help your attorney handle your case in a cost-effective manner.

• Communicate by e-mail rather than by telephone. Telephone calls tend to be more expensive because of the pleasantries exchanged before you and your attorney get down to business.

• Keep your e-mails short and to the point. Your attorney may receive hundreds e-mails a day. If you keep your emails short and to the point, your attorney can respond quickly to the issue you have raised without having to wade through a lengthy email.

• Organize your financial documents before you give them to your attorney. Parties in a divorce case must exchange tax returns, credit card statements, brokerage statements, bank statements, and personal property lists. Respond promptly to your attorney’s request for financial information. . If you have personal or work time-constraints, I suggest you call your attorney to ask for a referral to a financial professional who can help you out. Having organized financial documents can save you hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees or paralegal fees and can keep your case moving forward.

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The Financial Commitment to Your Case: What You Need to Know When You Hire An Attorney.

An attorney usually sits down with a new client at the very beginning of the case to talk about how the client is going to pay for the cost of the case. The financial arrangement and scope of representation is usually set out in a legal services agreement. Most attorneys require their clients to make a deposit towards the cost of legal fees.  This deposit is is called a retainer. Some attorneys keep the retainer in trust as a deposit towards the last invoice. Other attorneys subtract the amount of each invoice from the retainer. When the retainer is exhausted these attorneys usually require the client to replenish the retainer.

If a client fails to pay the attorney’s fees in accordance with the legal services agreement, then state law allows the attorney to file a statutory attorney's lien for the amount of unpaid legal services. Attorneys cannot to record an attorney's lien with the State Recorder’s Office. Attorneys are allowed to file the lien document in court and to send a copy of the lien to a title company or financial institution. If the client receives money in a property settlement or a court ordered property division from the sale of the house or the distribution of non-retirement funds from a financial institution, the attorney is entitled to assert the lien against this money. An attorney is also allowed to assert a lien against past due court-ordered child support.

My legal services agreement requires a client to maintain a balance in this or her trust account. But if a client is financially unable to maintain a balance in trust, then it is my policy to file an attorney’s lien in the superior court action to ensure that the client understands the financial commitment he or she has made to the litigation. It also ensure that I get paid for the work I have done on behalf of the client.
 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO SETTLE YOUR CASE

I was in court in a settlement conference recently. The trial judge made several points, which every party trying to settle their case must understand:

• In order to reach a settlement in any type of dispute, each party must be willing to make concessions.  To make concession means each party must  be willing to give up something in order to attain something.

• It is unreasonable to expect a party to settle for a property division, which represents their worst outcome at trial. It is unreasonable for a party to receive what represents their best outcome at trial.

• If a case is not settled, then each party gives up all control over the outcome to the judge (a third party) who does not know either party and may view what is important in the case in way, which neither party anticipates.

• If a case is not settled, then each party gives up the opportunity to get divorce immediately and faces what could be months of delay until the trial date and many more months until the judge finally has time to make a decision.

The point the judge was trying to make is that to settle a case both sides have to be willing to give us something in exchange for getting something. In addition, even though the parties in a divorce case are dividing one “pie”, frequently, there are other issues involved than how much of the pie each of them will receive in the property division. 

Notes from the Courtroom: Emails, Text Messages and Voicemails

If you are involved in a custody case, you should assume that each text message and email you send to your spouse and each voice message you leave for your spouse will find its way into the file of your spouse’s attorney. If your case goes to trial, you can expect to see text messages, emails, and transcripts of voice messages marked as trial exhibits and used against you at trial. Likewise, your attorney will certainly use damaging text messages, emails and transcripts against your spouse at trial.

So do yourself and your attorney a favor. Before you hit the send button, you should pause for a second and read over what you have just written to your spouse. Does your email/text message make accusations against your spouse? If so, you had better delete those accusations. Does your email/text message disparage, blame or belittle your spouse? If so, take the negative comments out of the email.

Sending derisive emails or text messages might make you feel better for the moment. But they can seriously damage your custody case if they become evidence that you are not capable of promoting a good relationship between your children and the other parent.

Tips for Separating Your Finances

In a divorce case, it is extremely important to be able to distinguish between credit card charges you and your spouse made during the marriage and credit card charges you or your spouse made after the start of divorce proceedings. A common mistake that one or both parties make is to continue to use marital credit cards after the start of the divorce. This makes it very difficult for either party to prove whether he/she paid marital credit card charges or post-marital credit card charges. To avoid this problem, you should stop using any marital credit cards once there is a divorce action pending. Open your own credit card account so that you can separate your post-divorce finances from your spouse’s finances.

Teach Your Children To Look For A Brighter Tomorrow

As family lawyers, we worry about the risk of emotional damage to children of divorce. But a negative outcome for the children is not inevitable. As a recent post titled Successful Children of Divorce points out, our new president Barack Obama, is an example of a great leader who experienced the divorce of his parents. 

Because his mother handled the challenges of divorce by looking forward to a brighter tomorrow, President Obama learned to think ahead rather than focusing on the wrongs from the past. These are the personal qualities, which make a great leader. As President Obama’s mother has shown us, divorcing parents can teach their children these same qualities by approaching life with a “can do” attitude.

Child Support and Home Mortgages: Guard that Paper Traill

One of the questions, which may come up during your divorce is whether you can afford to buy a home. Unless you receive enough money to pay cash, you will probably have to take out a mortgage loan to finance the purchase.  You and your ex-spouse may want to maintain an “amicable” relationship by having an informal child support arrangement. This may benefit your ex-spouse. But it may impair your ability to qualify for a home mortgage because a mortgage lender will expect you to provide proof you can afford to pay the mortgage.  Here are a few tips from Kelly Lisa Murray in her post about the dangers of post-divorce mortgages:

If a portion of your monthly income will be coming from child support, there are certain steps you should take to make sure you have a paper trail to give your lender to prove the amount of child support you receive. Here are a few tips, which come from Kelly Lisa Murray’s post about the hidden dangers of post-divorce mortgages. 

·  Do not accept child support payments by direct deposit or cash because you will have no paper trail or proof of income to show to a bank. At the very least, you should ask your ex-spouse to send you a check, which states “child support” on the memo line know more about new york jet club.

· To ensure you can show the lender that your child support payments are paid in full-on time, considering having the state (in Alaska CSSD) to collect child support either by requiring your ex-spouse to send the checks to CSSD or by having CSSD garnish your spouse’s wages. Make sure you keep a copy of each check (both sides) you receive from CSSD.

If you have questions about qualifying for a loan after you are divorced, you should you talk to your attorney and to a mortgage professional at the beginning of your divorce case.

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More About The Collaborative Process

In an earlier post I gave a general description of Collaborative Law.  This post explains that Collaborative Law (also referred to as Collaborative Family Law or Collaborative Divorce) is a short-hand reference for a process, which allows couples to arrive at a final divorce settlement without going through traditional divorce litigation.

What is the Collaborative Process?


The Collaborative Process offers an out-of-court alternative to divorcing couples who wish to avoid the cost, stress and unpredictability of divorce litigation. In a Collaborative case, each party is represented by an attorney. Working together as a team in joint sessions, the parties, their attorneys and allied professionals seek to identify the needs, interests and priorities of each family member as well as the areas where the parties disagree. The Collaborative “team” then assists the parties in using problem-solving strategies to resolve these disagreements and to arrive at a carefully thought out settlement, which meet the needs of each family member.

How does the Collaborative Process Work?


At the beginning of every Collaborative case, the attorneys, the parties, and other participating professionals enter into a written agreement. This agreement sets out the guidelines for the process.  The cornerstone of the agreement is the disqualification of  the attorneys and other allied professionals from participating in divorce litigation if the parties are unable to arrive at a settlement. The disqualification requirement ensures that the attorneys focus on the success of the process.  It prevents either attorney from resorting to the threat of taking a case to trial. It allows parties to identify their goals and interests and frees them from the emotional and financial cost of divorce litigation.
 

What is the end product of the Collaborative Process?

The goal of the Collaborative Process is to arrive at a final divorce settlement, which meets the needs of all family members.  The settlement may include an agreement about how the parties will divide their property and debts.  If the parties have minor children the agreement will address physical custody, legal custody and child support.  Once the agreement is reduced to writing, it will be submitted to a superior court judge.  The judge will approve the agreement and then enter the final decree of divorce.

The Standing Domestic Relations Procedural Order: What You Need to Know

When the divorce complaint is filed, the Superior Court issues a Standing Domestic Relations Procedural Order. If you are involved in a divorce action, it is important to read this order carefully and if you have any questions you should talk to your attorney. Here are a few examples of things that are not expressly covered by the order, but could be argued that implicit in the letter and the spirit of the order, which seeks to maintain the status quo while a divorce action is pending:

1. Canceling the utilities on the family home. If you move out of the home by choice or because of court order, you should not cancel the utilities on the family home. If you do not want to continue to pay the utilities, then you should discuss this with your attorney.

2. Allowing the mortgage on the home to become delinquent. Under no circumstances should you allow the mortgage on the home to become delinquent. This would jeopardize your credit and could be viewed as endangering a marital asset.

3. Allowing car payments or credit cards to become delinquent. Under no circumstances should you allow any marital debt to become delinquent. Damaging credit while a divorce is pending is a factor a court would consider in equitably dividing marital assets.

In short, you should do nothing to adversely affect marital assets, debts, or your spouse’s living situation. In my experience, this type of conduct inevitably backfires. It escalates the litigation and increases attorney's fees. It could even expose you to being required to pay additional attorney's fees for the benefit of your spouse if the court finds bad faith conduct on your part