These tips can help you keep the expenses of having a divorce lawyer under control.
File your taxes
If you are behind on filing your taxes, get them done as soon as possible. Under Ontario law, you need to provide your ex-partner with your full income tax return and notices of assessment for at least the past 3 years and possibly more. You cannot get a valid separation agreement or file court documents in Ontario family law if you have not done your taxes. Save yourself the headache and keep your taxes up to date.
Organize your thoughts and documents
Keep your documents and emails from your lawyer organized. Take notes on your meetings with your lawyer. You can refer to your notes and your lawyer will not have to bill you to provide the same information. You want to be as efficient as you can with your lawyer’s time and your money.Instead of emailing your lawyer each time you have a question, give yourself some time so that you can send one email with multiple questions. Double-check your notes and emails to see if the question has been asked and answered.
Provide your financial information
A major driver of high legal fees in Ontario is a person’s refusal to provide their financial information. Delaying providing financial information means that everything will take longer and cost more. If you want to be able to buy the other person out of the jointly owned home or get a new mortgage, provide your financial information as soon as possible. You will get in trouble in court if you do not provide this information.It can be cheaper to provide it when requested than having to be ordered to by the court to provide it and possibly have to pay some of the other person’s legal fees.
Focus on your goal and listen to your lawyer
Your lawyer’s job is not to tell you what you want to hear. It is to advise you on the law. Sometimes that is good for you and sometimes it is bad. Sometimes it is downright ugly, but your lawyer’s job is to tell you the way it is. Unfortunately, not everything that is important to you is important under Ontario law. You might not like what the lawyer is telling you, but you should listen to them. Tell your lawyer what is most important to you and remember not to lose focus of that goal. Going off onto a tangent, or proverbially chasing a red herring, will cost you much more in legal fees.Let your lawyer guide you in what is worth fighting for and what is not. It can be frustrating to be the bigger person and it might feel unfair, but you also benefit from paying less legal fees because you are making the smart decision to not fight over the little things.Do not get distracted by the smaller items. Who gets the dinner plates is far less important than a big ticket item like the house. Remember to see the forest through the trees. If your separation is high-conflict and you are frustrated by your ex-partner’s positions, that is no reason to dig your heels in on smaller issues. Focus on the big picture. What do you want the outcome to be post-separation and what is your lawyer telling you about how to get there?
Be forthright with your lawyer
You are paying your lawyer for their legal advice. If you have signed a retainer agreement, then you and your lawyer have lawyer-client privilege. “Lawyer-client privilege”, also called “solicitor-client privilege”, means that your lawyer cannot repeat what you say without your approval.For your lawyer to give you accurate advice, you need to provide accurate information. Answer your lawyer’s questions directly. It is better to be upfront so that your lawyer is prepared. If you do not tell your lawyer something and your ex-partner is aware of this information, it makes it more difficult for the lawyer to advocate on your behalf.You might not like what you hear, but the lawyer’s job is to advise you on how the law applies and your options. To get the most out of your lawyer, you need to provide your lawyer with accurate information.
Do not respond to your lawyer’s emails right away
This might seem counter-intuitive, but often when you respond in a rush you miss something. If you take time to review the email thoroughly and wait on responding, you also have the opportunity to think of follow-up questions. The more emails you send your lawyer, the more you spend on legal fees. So, by taking your time, and not responding right away, you can actually save yourself money by sending one email instead of several.