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Flat Fees Are Finally Here!

Billable Hours Lawyers are taught at the outset of our careers that the Billable Hour rules the world.  Coming from the business community, I always found the billing practices of law firms to be rather odd.  In most other service industries, the customer obtains a quote or bid or scope of work that outlines what you will pay for the work you want done.  Law firms (as well as accounting, and some other professions), on the other hand, almost always operate on an open-ended contract that often brings a frightful surprise to clients at the end of the month.  A common analogy is taking your car to the garage for repair and the mechanic informs you that he might be able to fix your car, but he’s not sure how long it will take and can only tell you what it will cost when he’s finished fixing it.  Another good comparison is hiring someone to paint your house by the hour.  Either way, an open-ended hourly system of billing invites inefficiencies and does not serve our clients as well as we should. Variable Costs of Litigation Legal fees can vary greatly from firm to firm and can increase exponentially with even a little bit of conflict between the parties.  It’s been very difficult for the Family Law bar to adopt flat fees because of the moving target of litigation.  For example, given two cases that have almost identical fact patterns, assets, and liabilities, Case A’s litigated divorce will cost around $30,000 each and Case B”s litigated divorce will cost in excess of $150,000 each.   And it’s hard to know, in advance, which case an attorney might...

5 Scenarios For A Parenting Plan Tune-up

The over-arching theme of co-parenting is that “things change” — kids get older, change schools, you and/or your co-parent remarry, you move to a new neighborhood and, all the while, your Parenting Plan is safely tucked away in a file cabinet, becoming an outdated old clunker of a plan. As we like to say in family law practice, the best Parenting Plans set out “fall back” positions, are filed with the Court, thrown in a drawer, and never see the light of day again … because you and your co-parent are  raising your kids and working together as family members should.  Even in the best co-parenting relationships, situations sometimes arise that will have you digging around looking for that dusty old legal document to figure out what to do next.  And then, when you find it, you may be surprised to find that it says something you didn’t expect or doesn’t say anything at all about your new situation. Here are a few common scenarios that we see and I have outlined them for you so you can think about whether or not your Parenting Plan may need a tune-up. Babies became teens:  If your Parenting Plan was written for wee ones and your babies are now in driver’s ed, it’s likely that your parenting arrangements, vacations, and holiday plans have all changed, too.  Maybe your Parenting Plan was concerned with day care, but now should be addressing curfews and college choices.  Definitely time for a tune-up! Blended families and Parenting Plans:  It’s a few years down the road and now you have yours, his, ours, and theirs.  How do you...

Are You Above Average?

Are you Above Average?  You might think so, but you’re probably not when it comes to divorce. Becoming Above Average is not nearly as hard as it sounds.  When it comes to family law matters, you don’t have to have a low percent of body fat, high IQ, big bank account or a lot of letters behind your name to be Above Average.  All you need is a little bit of knowledge and the will to use it.  In this blog series, I’ve introduced you to Tim and Kathy, a fictional couple who represent the Average Divorce.  They spent more than half their net worth and two and a half years of their lives litigating their divorce.  They depleted their savings, their available credit, and their health.  Their kids went through a traumatic custody evaluation and the family business is facing bankruptcy.  They are the poster couple for the Average Divorce.  If you don’t believe me, just ask around! So how do you avoid falling into the Average Divorce trap?  How do you become Above Average?  Here are a few ideas: Know Yourself:  Investing in some therapy will help you know yourself better, learn what your weaknesses are, and understand how to  communicate with your spouse around issues of co-parenting and finances. Know Your Money:  Engaging an independent divorce financial planner can save you and your spouse hundreds (even thousands) of dollars in legal fees, lost opportunity, and taxes. Know Your Kids:  Hiring a child specialist to help you understand your children’s developmental needs is less expensive and invasive than a custody evaluation, but can provide valuable insight into what’s best for the...

Create a new tradition!

Create a New Tradition for Your New Family Dynamic This may be your first holiday season wearing your New Family suit, and it might  not feel as comfortable as you would like, so here are some ideas to help you find the joy in the season: New Family. You, your children, your coparent, and extended family on both sides are now part of a New Family. Treat each other with the care and compassion that you would treat your own family members (would you be snippy or sarcastic to your favorite aunt or beloved sibling?). Try to remember to approach all of your interactions while silently saying the words Compassion, Gratitude, and Harmony. It will help you focus on what’s important. Kids first. If you and your co-parent (notice, we don’t use the word “ex”) are focused on what will make the holidays best for the children, you will almost certainly do the right thing. That doesn’t mean competing to see who can out-spend or one-up the other. In fact, the best way to show your love may be to discuss and agree with your co-parent on what gifts the children will receive and then present them from both of you. You can also agree to alternate favorite activities, or attend together. For example, if a “sparkle tour” is a favorite Christmas Eve activity, rent a van and take along another family. It creates a sense of adventure for the children and gives you, as co-parents, a buffer zone of other people to interact with just in case things are tense. New Traditions. Memories of Christmas (or Thanksgiving, Hanukkah,...

The High Conflict Person and Their Crazy-Making Ways

In family law, we often see good people at their worst.  Sometimes, though, we see a level of conflict that is disproportionate to the situation and it may seem (if you’re in the relationship) like you are being beaten down at every turn.  The High Conflict Person can make a big fight over nothing and, worse still, they seem to enjoy it. In a recent case, Spouse A filed for divorce, told Spouse B to leave the house, and both parties hired attorneys.  We would expect Spouse A to be – if not happy, exactly – satisfied when Spouse B complied and became actively engaged in the divorce proceedings.  Not so in this case.  The more that Spouse B met Spouse A’s demands, the worse they became.  The bar was constantly moving and no one, not even Spouse A’s attorney, could stabilize the situation.  The case took almost a year to resolve, but only because Spouse A created drama, made up fights, and fueled the fire of conflict at every turn. I was going to write a blog post about how High Conflict People can derail your best efforts in settlement, and then I ran across this article by Bill Eddy, the go-to guy for high conflict situations.  Bill knows all about Spouse A – read his article here. What I particularly like about Bill’s advice is that he gives us a clear definition of the HCP: An Observable High Conflict Pattern High-conflict people (HCPs) have a pattern of high-conflict behavior that increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it. This pattern usually happens over and over again in...