Tag - Cost

Part V – Five Questions Every Client Should Ask Their Montana Divorce Attorney

This post is the last in a five part series on questions you should ask your divorce attorney before you sign on the dotted line.  Check out Part I here, Part II here, Part III here and Part IV here.


Occasionally, a client will hire an attorney and then realize that the attorney isn’t exactly what the client bargained for.  There are a number of factors that could lead to a breakdown in the client’s relationship with their attorney.  Sometimes a client realizes they can’t afford the attorney, other times a client might determine the attorney is not giving them the kind of information they expected.  Regardless of the reason, clients should understand that they are not forced to stick with an attorney they are unhappy with.

Though there are only certain circumstances in which an attorney can fire their client, a client can always fire their attorney.  A client may also hire a different attorney to be substituted in for the attorney they are unhappy with.  However, if a client has deadlines looming, it is important the client discusses those deadlines with their potential new counsel.

Before you run out and fire your attorney or hire someone else, you should discuss your concerns with your current counsel.  It may be possible that your attorney has no idea you are unhappy with their representation.  A discussion can go a long way.



Part IV – Five Questions Every Client Should Ask Their Montana Divorce Attorney

This post is the fourth in a five part series on questions you should ask your divorce attorney before you sign on the dotted line.  Check out Part I here, Part II here, Part III here – and look forward to Part V in the next few days.


Mediation can be a great way to fast-track what is often an incredibly slow, arduous divorce process.  If the parties agree to attend mediation early on and the mediation process is successful, it can be cheap (relatively), fast, and amicable.  There are a number of attorneys that do a great deal of family law, divorce, or child custody mediation in the Flathead/Kalispell area.  If you are looking for a mediator, consider the following Flathead/Kalispell mediators (listed in no particular order):  Shelly Brander at Kaufman, Vidal, Hileman, P.C. in Kalispell, MT;  Vanessa Ceravolo in Kalispell, MT; Mary Obermiller in Kalispell, MT; Randy Schwickert in Whitefish, MT; Brian Muldoon in Whitefish, MT; or Joyce Funda in Kalispell, MT.  Choosing a mediator is as important as choosing a lawyer.  Feel free to shop around for the attorney that fits your needs.  I encourage clients to find out the hourly rate of the mediator, the mediators availability, and to make sure they are comfortable with the mediator.

While Flathead County District Court has a local rule that requires alternative dispute resolution (i.e. mediation or settlement conference) prior to trial, parties are not required to attend mediation early on in the process.  In other words, the parties must agree if the mediation is to take place early on in the divorce process.  Some couples go to mediation before either one has filed for divorce or even before they have separated.  Luckily, it seems most family law attorneys in the Flathead/Kalispell area are in agreement that early mediation can be beneficial in many circumstances.  There are some cases, however, that early mediation is not the best option.

If you are represented by an attorney, you may want to discuss how your attorney can be a part of the mediation process. Many clients choose to take their attorneys to mediation.  While that is a great idea, it can also be expensive – a client is paying for the attorney and the mediator.  Talk with your attorney about ways they can assist you in the mediation process, while also conserving your valuable resources.  Many of my clients choose to attend mediation (though I prepare them for the process) on their own and simply check in with me before they sign any settlement agreement on the dotted line.

Part III – Five Questions Every Client Should Ask Their Montana Divorce Attorney

This post is the third in a five part series on questions you should ask your divorce attorney before you sign on the dotted line.  Check out Part I here and Part II here – and look forward to Parts IV and V in the next few days.


Imagine it:  you have hired an attorney, plopped down the several thousand dollar retainer fee and you are feeling confident and secure in the future of your case.  Then, a few weeks later, you get your first bill.  You realize how truly expensive it can be to have an attorney represent and you  see that a huge chunk of your retainer has been spent.  A month later, little money is left.  A month after that, you receive a bill a realize you owe your attorney money.   Panic sets in.  Despite the warnings form your attorney, you figured (or hoped) your case would be cheap and easy.   If you haven’t spoken to your attorney about this scenario, you haven’t adequately prepared yourself for the sticker shock that often occurs during the first few months of representation.

Because every divorce case is different, some clients end up in a much lengthier and expensive divorce than they expected.   At times, clients are unable to keep up with their bill and fall behind in payment.  Depending on the divorce lawyer, this can affect how your case is handled.   Find out how your perspective attorney handles these situations.  Does he/she allow you to make payments over time?  Does he/she accept credit card payments, which allows a client the opportunity to pay over time?  Does he/she stop representing a client if the client owes them money?  Does he/she send her clients to collections?  Does he/she charge late fees?

It is important to have this conversation before the situation arises, so that both you and the attorney are on the same page.   One of the worst things that can happen in a divorce is for a client to run out of money part way through and be left without an attorney.  In that case, you’ve paid an attorney to get you part of the way through, but not to the light at the end of the tunnel.  If the advance deposit is the only money you are going to be able to put towards the case, perhaps you should explore the options discussed in Part I of this series.


Part II – Five Questions Every Client Should Ask Their Montana Divorce Attorney

This post is the second of a five part series on questions you should ask your divorce attorney before you sign on the dotted line.  Check out Part I here and look forward to Parts III through V over the coming days.


Question 2 can be a bit misleading, because the big cost question is a loaded one!  Because most divorce lawyers charge their clients hourly, it can be very difficult to say exactly how much a divorce will cost.  As such, it can be very difficult (nearly impossible) for a divorce lawyer to give you a good estimate on the overall cost of your case.  There are a few things, however, your divorce attorney should be able to tell you about the costs:

(a) the attorneys’ hourly rate ($150-$250 is average for Kalispell divorce lawyers);

(b) the advanced-deposit or retainer that will be necessary (anywhere from $1,500 – $5,000+ for Kalispell divorce lawyers);

(c) if they have paralegals or staff that do work for them, what the paralegal/staff’s hourly rate is; and

(d) will I have filing fees or any costs other than your hourly fees?

Ideally, the answers to all of these questions will be able to be found in the divorce attorney’s Representation/Fee Agreement.  If you decide not to hire the attorney, you may never even get to see the Fee Agreement – all the more reason to ask the questions first!

If you are unsatisfied with any of the answers, ask follow up questions and find out why the office works the way it does.  Is the hourly rate for the attorney higher because they have more experience?  If so, you may feel a lot better about shelling out an extra $50.00 per hour.  Is your case complex?  It may explain an increase in the advance deposit or retainer fee required.  As always, shop around for an attorney until you feel comfortable with one.


Part I – Five Questions Every Client Should Ask Their Montana Divorce Attorney

Over the next couple of weeks, my blog will focus on the questions you should ask your divorce lawyer BEFORE you hire them.  My hope is to inform those clients that have never hired an attorney before or have been unhappy in the past.  If you are planning to file for divorce, or if you have been served with divorce paperwork, your first instinct is probably to hire an attorney.  For most litigants, that search begins with a consultation or inquiry appointment with an attorney in the area.  Before you hire your divorce attorney, make sure you have all of your questions answered.  Most importantly, be sure that your attorney is someone you feel comfortable with.  Choosing a divorce attorney is a very personal decision and not every attorney works for every client.  If you have never visited with a divorce lawyer before, here are some questions that may help you get the ball rolling.


The reality is, everyone can benefit from having a divorce lawyer see them through the entire divorce process.  It is wonderful to have someone you can call at any time with questions and concerns.  However, not everyone can afford to have a lawyer represent them throughout the divorce process and their may be ways you can protect your interests without spending thousands on an attorney.  Any divorce attorney you meet with should be willing to have an honest discussion with you about your options for legal representation.

For example, I have many clients that are representing themselves in their divorce case, but that periodically set up an appointment to review forms they have completed or ask specific legal questions.  If you end up with this kind of arrangement, be sure you and your attorney carefully and clearly define your relationship in writing.  There should be no confusion about what your attorney is and is not doing for you.  If you are unclear, ASK!  I also have clients that have decided to file for divorce pro se (as an unrepresented litigant) and then asked me to jump into their case part of the way through.  Often times, the first few documents necessary in a divorce case can be easily acquired online – though be sure you ask your attorney where you can acquire accurate and appropriate forms.   A word of warning:  representing yourself does not work for everyone and you do not want to make mistakes that are difficult to repair.  Speak to an attorney before you try to do it yourself and, most importantly, take their advice seriously.  If you are uncomfortable with the advice you are given, shop around for a second opinion.

Watch for Parts II – IV of this series on questions to ask your divorce lawyer.