Being a family law attorney, there are certain things that I have gotten used to hearing from my clients over time.
“It’s not my daughter’s fault.”
“I don’t want anything bad for him, I just can’t be married to him.”
And, “It’s not about the money.”
That last one, whenever I hear it, makes me feel a bit sad. It makes me wonder what that woman was told or what stories they heard that made her feel like she has to say that divorce is not about the money. I know exactly what she means: her life, her kids, and her future potential are her primary focus points. I get that. As a lawyer, however, I have to be honest when I tell you that family court is very much about the money, and if you do not pay attention to it, you may end up losing.
I once had a woman who was so determined to fight her divorce at trial that she did not realize how much she was spending on legal fees. By the time she ran out of money, she realized that she could have settled for a much better outcome than she got at trial, and she would not have been left with an extra bill to pay on top of it.
There was also this time a mother was so determined not to agree to anything less than sole custody that she spent all her savings on negotiating something unreasonable and ended up having to represent herself at trial.
Women, for some reason, feel the need to ignore the financial component of family court, or at least to make it look like they are ignoring that aspect when talking to others.
Well, here’s the truth: The clients who do not pay attention to the money are the ones who realize, and often realize too late, how important it is to be informed and make sound financial decisions right from the beginning.
When thinking about money and your family court case, consider these important financial elements:
- Child Support. Perhaps the most common financial element of any child custody case is child support. Many women have confused this with someone’s obligation to support their ex-spouse (spousal maintenance). Others think of it as charity. Child support is actually one of the simplest money-related parts of family court – it is the obligation of both parents to support their children. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Spousal Maintenance (aka Alimony). Spousal maintenance, formerly called alimony, is a bit of a gray area. Different counties, and sometimes even different judges, have different standards for how to determine if you are entitled to receive maintenance from your former spouse. It is important for you to know how your county and the judge assigned to your case determines maintenance payments if your case goes to trial.
- Court Costs and Services. In all likelihood, the fees you will pay to the court will be the smallest expenses associated with your divorce, especially if you hire a lawyer to represent you. The court usually requires a one-time filing fee. The initial documents and some select motions throughout your case may incur a fee to be formally served on the other party. Other than that, fees from the court will be minimal. If your case involves court-ordered services like therapy, counseling, or other social service interventions, then those services may cost you out-of-pocket if they are not covered by your health insurance.
- Legal Fees. The biggest financial burden for most people in family court is hiring an attorney and paying legal fees. When hiring a lawyer, make sure you understand where every penny of your money is going to go. Have a clear understanding about how legal fees work and what your attorney will be billing you for. In many cases, you may not even need to hire a lawyer for a full retainer when you can do legal coaching instead. Or, if you do, there may be creative financing options available to you that you have not even thought of yet. Most horror stories about how much people spend on family court cases are about attorney’s fees.
We will be talking about these money issues and more throughout the rest of “Money March” here at The Lien Law Firm. If you have questions about money and family court, please submit them on our Facebook page so that you can get direct answers to your specific questions!
The Lien Law Firm’s “Time for Truth” blog series focuses on debunking common myths and misconceptions about family law issues. You can read more at www.lienlawfirm.com. Do you have questions about money and your family court case? Call The Lien Law Firm at 314-722-8557 for a no-cost consultation where you can have a frank, honest conversation with a lawyer about your money questions.