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Minimizing Costs in a Family Law Case

September 21, 2011

Part 6 in an ongoing series: Managing New Challenges in California Family Law Disputes

One of the best ways to minimize costs in a family law case is trying an alternative method of proceeding with your case, as previously noted, instead of pursuing litigation. As long as you have been able to identify the challenges in your case and you are adequately prepared to present the client’s position, going to mediation or some other form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) early on can be a good way of limiting costs for the client. I also think that the new focus toward collaborative efforts in family law matters has impacted family law cases in a positive way. While mediators are useful. In some contexts, they cannot give legal advice to the parties, and since mediators work with both parties, one party may feel under represented if the perception is the mediator tends to side with the other spouse. Additionally, one party may be more sophisticated in business than the other party, creating a power imbalance. However, in a collaborative law proceeding, each party has their own counsel, and there is a commitment on both sides that they will not be going to court-which removes the inherent pressure of the “If you don’t agree with me, I’ll see you in court” mentality. Basically, I think mediation/ADR has become more progressive, in that all parties can now be represented adequately without the high costs of litigation.

Other cost-saving strategies may include utilizing the services of professionals who can offer their unique brand of expertise, instead of trying to do all of the work in a case on your own. Helpful experts in family law cases include CPAs, real estate appraisers, and mental health professionals who can help you in determining a good custody plan for the family by identifying the children’s needs and the parents’ ability to meet them. Consequently, I bring experts into my clients’ cases early and often. I find that experts help me build a foundation for my case, and they identify the key issues in a family law matter, which cuts down on the time that the parties may spend arguing over certain issues. For instance, instead of waiting to find out what the value of a piece of real estate might be, it is far more cost-effective to get an appraisal early on. It is also helpful to try to get the cooperation of your opposing counsel with respect to such appraisals so that you do not wind up dealing with “dueling experts.”

-Joseph P. Spirito Jr. is a partner at McGaughey & Spirito. He has been in private practice in Los Angeles area since 1982. He is currently serving on the executive committee of the Los Angles County Bar’s family law section and is A Better Divorce Collaborative Law Group – Co-Founder and President

This article was first published in STRATEGIES FOR FAMILY LAW 20th EDITION

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