Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Phrase to Remember: Financial Attrition

I want to credit Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Blog and it s article Financial Attrition for my subject line. I never seen the phrase used this way but am all too well acquainted with the principal:

"Unfortunately, in some instances, the outcome of the dispute is based on something that is not connected to a child's best interests or what is fair and equitable. Instead it is based on financial attrition. That is, on one party having the financial means to pursue the dispute, regardless of the merits of that party's position, while the other party lacks the means to advance their argument. If one party has the funds to hire an attorney to proceed in the dispute (with or without a solid basis on the merits) and the other party does not, the result will not necessarily be proper justice."
I see this as relating directly what I have written about in Two Tier Family Law and Follow up on Attorney Fees and Appointed Counsel and others that can be found in my topical archive under "Attorney Fees".

Let me add another item for your consideration, having to pay the other sides attorney fees.Here is one of several Indiana statutes that allow for shifting of attorney fees
IC 31-15-10-1
Costs and attorney's fees; order for direct payment to attorney
Sec. 1. (a) The court periodically may order a party to pay a reasonable amount for the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding under this article and for attorney's fees and mediation services, including amounts for legal services provided and costs incurred before the commencement of the proceedings or after entry of judgment.
(b) The court may order the amount to be paid directly to the attorney, who may enforce the order in the attorney's name.
It is necessary to consider these kind of statutes when advising clients about actions to take during the course of their case. Notice the statute limits these fees to those that are reasonable, but reasonable is in the eye of the beholder.

Add attorney fees to the discussions in posts like Divorce Requires Proper Financial Planning from Alabama Divorce & Family Law Layer Blog or Checklist of Divorce Issues from Alabama Family Law blog.

What this means is that we cannot litigate most cases in the manner we were taught in law school - loads of depositions, unlimited discovery, experts. Those belong to another world. Folks, it takes experience and common sense to know how much to litigate a case as best as possible. It also means that in many cases some points are not made in perfection. Which brings us back to the two (or three0 tier family law system I described elsewhere. Reading The Domino Effect of The Current Economic Crisis from The Georgia Family Law blog shows my concerns are not just local.

Closer to home and taking a broader view is Law - "For the poor, there are simply not enough lawyers to go around" from The Indiana Law Blog.

When your divorce lawyer wants to discuss with you the costs of the divorce, do not think it is self-serving interest that motivates this conversation. We need to know what expectations you have in your case - that is our job. You need to know what it will cost to get what you want. What you should be worried about is not being asked what are your expectations in the case, or being given a rough estimate of what the case will cost you.

I realize that I have used "divorce" throughout this article. Rather than going back and changing all these references, let just say that what I have written applies to all litigation and all sorts of family law cases.

That will need to do until the day comes that we actually look at how our family law system actually works and how it could work better.

Remember, if you want more information about retaining me for a case, please give me a call at 765-641-7906.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find myself in this exact position. My divorce was finalized in MN where the child support obligation to non-custodial parent (in this case the father) is much greater. Now I find myself back in court at the mercy of someone making 3x what I make even working 2 jobs. His lawyer has asked that I pay part of his fees because, that my part-time job be counted into the determination even as the contract ends -- i.e it should be imputed to me, that with the MN decree ex 'overpaid' c.s and I stand there taking the attorney's abuse - trying to fight for my child -- it's quite the opera and who suffers in the end?