Tips for Saving Money On Divorce

New York Divorce Lawyer on How to Make Divorce Faster, Less Expensive

Video Transcript:

Carla Barone:

You can marry and remarry and divorce multiple times, each time you do it, you only have one chance at it.

Rob Rosenthal:

Are there tips you can follow for making your divorce easier and less expensive? Well, that's what we're gonna find out right now, because that's what we're gonna Ask the Lawyer on this episode. Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com. My guest is New York City attorney Carla Barone. Before we get to Carla I want to remind you, if you'd like to ask her questions of your own, just go to AskTheLawyers.com, there's a button up in the upper right hand corner that says, Ask a Lawyer. You can click on that and it'll walk you through the process or you call the phone number that'll be on the screen when we talk to Carla. Carla, it's good to see you, thank you for making some time to answer our questions.

Carla Barone:

Absolutely, thanks for having me.

Rob Rosenthal:

So you've had a little bit of experience handling divorce cases. You've got to have some suggestions, if somebody says, What are some tips I can have, or let's just start with the cost of a divorce that they can maybe help keep that down. What's your advice?

Carla Barone:

Sure, absolutely. Definitely hiring an experienced lawyer in the field will definitely help with cost. At first, one may say, Well, why is that? If it's an experienced lawyer, maybe that person costs more money. What we can say about that is really the more experienced a firm you go to, the more knowledge and experience they have, and therefore it can take you to the finish line much quicker, much more productively. So I would say, interview the lawyers that you are seeking to help you along in the divorce and gauge their experience level, first and foremost. That's very key to getting you to the finish line quicker and in the most productive fashion.

Rob Rosenthal:

When you do those interviews, what are a couple of things you should look for?

Carla Barone:

Sure, well, at Cohen Forman Barone, where I practice, we have a team for the matrimonial division, and what that means is I have myself as the partner, but we also have a staff of paralegals and associates who can help the client through their matter. What this also means is there's different rates at which those attorneys and partners and paralegal staff, administrative staff are billed at. Generally, we like to delegate certainly to the most competent person at that rate, so to minimize the cost for the client, so it's certainly interviewing and asking questions about the fee structures within the firm and how work is delegated is always helpful.

Rob Rosenthal:

And sort of what you alluded to a minute ago, is it... Part of what makes things cost more is taking more time. Are there things people can do once they've chosen somebody to help streamline the process, I'm thinking maybe have your papers work in order or things like that?

Carla Barone:

That is definitely helpful. At Cohen Forman Barone, we like to view our client relationships as our clients as part of our team, and so the more the client is engaged in his or her case, the more time it saves the law firm. For instance, during the discovery phase, which is really the exchange of documents, which can be long and tedious and depending on the assets and liabilities could be time-consuming. If the client is very organized as you said in their documents, sending over PDF files, uploading to a file share system, so that there is easy transmission in an organized fashion, that's less work that the lawyer has to do. I've had cases back in years and years ago, before all the technology that we have, where they would bring in boxes of receipts and they would be disorganized and still in the envelopes. Well, that would be very time-consuming to sort through, certainly, so uploading documents, having the ability to use Adobe or PDF and knowing that technology and doing some of that for the law firm will certainly save in costs.

Rob Rosenthal:

It just occurred to me too that are probably another savings would be, if someone on your team asks for something to get it to them as quickly as possible, rather if they don't have to keep chasing you down for things, that also would seem like that would be helpful as far as time-saving.

Carla Barone:

That definitely is helpful. Also, we'll move the matter quickly, more quickly through the various stages that you have to communicate with the other side, so if the lawyer doesn't have to follow up with the client and weeks go by, it's also it's going to save time and it's going to save money.

Rob Rosenthal:

That makes sense. What if one party in the divorce is boy, they wanna move it quickly and they're ready, they're okay with doing mediation or whatever, but the other side is being more contentious and turning up the heat. Do you have advice in those situations?

Carla Barone:

I do. I think speaking with the attorney, a client who comes in to speak during the consultation and during the initial interview could speak to the attorney about how to move the case along. The client will certainly know before the attorney knows what the other side is kind of all about and what the sort of MO is in approaching this. Share that with the lawyer that you're thinking of hiring. This way that lawyer, the lawyer can strategize with you on how to move that along. There are various things that can be done. I do go back to the level of experience of the attorney that you're hiring, because that attorney will generally be known in the field and known among all the other lawyers in the area as to have a reputation as to how to move the case along, and that definitely can help take the heat down a little bit if the other side's unwilling. Another area that I think the lawyer can do to strategize is certainly their knowledge of the law, and so if the client is communicating with the lawyer about the legal issues of the case, then strategy can be formed as to how to get behind those and sort of curttail the other side with the lawyer's knowledge of the law and the issues before it.

Rob Rosenthal:

What about for parents, Carla? Everything gets a little more complicated or maybe a lot more complicated when there are children involved, what's your advice to parents, if there... to keep the contentiousness down when the kids are involved?

Carla Barone:

Sure. I like to share with my clients what the kind of gold standard is when you're in a divorce case that is before a judge. For instance, there's something called the Client's Bill of Rights, and I like to... Excuse me, a Children's Bill of Rights, there is a Client Bill of Rights, too, but as far as the Children's Bill of Rights, I like to share that with the client so that the clients are aware of what the court's expecting of them in a custody situation. Sharing things about how any discussion of the case is to be kept out of earshot of the children, and any disagreements, fighting or otherwise should be out of earshot of the children, that the children have a right to that as its parents move through divorce proceedings. To share with the children that they are to uphold the other parent in the eyes of the child in a good light and to not speak poorly or disparage the other parent in the ears and eyes of the children. So these are things the court expects, and I think it's helpful for everyone to always hear that, so it is in the back of their mind, it's not easy, certainly, and the courts will always say You don't have to like each other anymore, but you do have to work together for your children.

Rob Rosenthal:

And I would assume judges frown upon people who may not hold to this bill of rights.

Carla Barone:

They're not only frown upon it, but there could be, at the most extreme, a person could lose custody for repeated violations and bad behavior in that regard. Yes.

Rob Rosenthal:

I can't imagine somebody trying this Carla, but are there people that try to handle a divorce on their own and go, Oh, we don't need an attorney involved. Is that even possible? And what's the dangers there?

Carla Barone:

Well, it is possible. Each litigant has a right to proceed, what's called self-represented or pro se in their case, but it is certainly frowned upon by the courts, but it is a person's right, and it comes with great consequence. I tell people all the time that although you can marry and remarry and divorce multiple times, each time you do it, you only have one chance at it. You don't get to redo an asset division or redo a liability division. The custody agreement that you negotiate will be long-lasting to some degree, that is modifiable, but equitable distribution award is not modifiable. In many respects, an alimony or spousal support is not modifiable, So bearing that in mind, you want to... The reason why going self-represented or alone in your divorce is not advisable is because there could be things, many things that the ear, unless you're working with the ear of a trained professional and experienced matrimonial lawyer, the person just may not know what they don't know, which could be long-lasting. So definitely getting all of the advice they need is the more advisable route.

Rob Rosenthal:

Too much at stake, it seems to me.

Carla Barone:

Yes, for sure, for sure. Too much at stake.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of really helpful information, Carla, thank you so much for making some time to answer our questions.

Carla Barone:

Oh, thank you for having me.

Rob Rosenthal:

And that's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been New York City attorney Carla Barone. And once again, I remind you, if you'd like to ask Carla questions of your own, go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button at the top that says Ask a Lawyer, and it'll walk you right through the very simple process right there. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask the Lawyers.

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