Monday, June 1, 2015

Creative Ways to Pay Your Attorney

One of the main reasons why people change attorneys in the middle of  divorces and other court cases is inability to pay for the attorney.  Attorneys prefer to not withdraw and often will be patient up to a point, but they can't work and not be paid.  It's best to deal with the issue early on.

What can you do if you think you can't afford to pay your attorney?  Here are some options to consider.

1.  First, do a realistic evaluation up front.  Sure, you want the best attorney available, but can you afford that attorney? Look at your income and resources, including the suggestions below.

2. Find an attorney you can afford.  Did you know that there are a lot of very good attorneys around who would be happy to represent you?  A higher hourly rate doesn't necessarily mean an attorney is the best one for you.  There are many good attorneys who charge a variety of hourly rates.  Don't stop with the most expensive attorney.  Try to start off with an affordable attorney you have good chemistry with.

3.  Some attorneys will work out a payment plan for you.  Some don't.  It's a good discussion to have up front, rather than waiting until you fall behind on payments.

4. You may be able to pay a flat fee for services.  Very few attorneys do that, but some will.  I have done it in contested cases with payment in stages, and that can work out. Keep in mind, "Flat fee"  doesn't  equate with "cheap".  The fees may sound high all at once, but there is certainty about the total amounts to be charged and you can plan how to pay it.  It's another good discussion.

5. Most attorneys will take credit cards for payments of attorney fees.  It's not exactly free money, but it can help you manage the payments.

6. You might be able to get money from your spouse by agreement or court order.  If there's money available, most courts will try to get attorneys paid so the parties can be represented.

7.  Maybe you can take funds from an asset.  There may be bank accounts, investments or other savings that could be tapped. If there's an injunction or restraining order, you may need permission to access some funds.

8. Maybe the attorney could be paid from the proceeds from the sale of  your house, if it's going to be sold.  That would take agreement by all parties and attorneys, but it's frequently done.

9.  You could take out a loan from a bank or a 401K account or use a line of credit. If there are court orders in effect already, make sure you get permission and don't violate the orders.

10. You may need to borrow from family or friends.  No one likes to do that, but it might be your only option.

As you can see, there are potentially many different ways to pay attorney's fees.  The best approach is to talk early and often with your attorney about the fees so payments can be managed.