|Anyone else old enough to remember that Dolly Parton Song?|
Most people quickly answer that Lawyers are evil, money-gobbling creatures, and, sure, some are. But the reality of the situation is that many couples seeking a divorce largely create their own ever-increasing legal bills by disagreeing about literally everything they can.
What does a divorce look like to a lawyer? Let me see if I can break this down for you:
First, the person who initially files for the divorce (and therefore becomes the Plaintiff) goes to a lawyer and explains his/her situation. The lawyer then drafts a COMPLAINT FOR DIVORCE. (Get it, comPLAINT = PLAINTIFF? That's a neat little mnemonic device.) This complaint spells out the basic reasons why the plaintiff wishes to divorce their spouse and, generally, what they want the court to award them in the divorce: the car, the house, the kids...
|...and this lamp...|
This complaint gets filed with the court (the court charges about $300.00 just to accept and file this document), and then the complaint gets served on the other party who then becomes the Defendant (because s/he has to DEFEND him/herself against the complaint). This service has to be done a specific way to be valid in the eyes of the court, so most lawyers use a licensed Process Server to accomplish this. A process server will charge anywhere from $70 - $300 to perform this service, depending upon the situation.
The Defendant then has 20 days to respond to the complaint. Usually this means that the Defendant has to go and hire their own lawyer who then drafts a document called an ANSWER AND COUNTERCLAIM, wherein the Defendant Answers the Plaintiff's Complaint by agreeing or disagreeing with specific parts of it and then makes his or her own Counterclaim For Divorce. Most divorce lawyers in Las Vegas charge between $400 - $600 an hour and these documents can sometimes take half a day to draft, depending upon the number of things the couple wishes to argue about.
Also, there may be things that need addressed before the parties even come close to agreeing on a final Decree of Divorce. These things frequently take the form of child custody, child support, and the payment of debts that the couple accrued together. Sometimes it has to do with who gets to keep the house since the couple no longer wishes to continue to live together during the divorce proceedings.
To deal with issues such as these, many times a lawyer will bring the parties before the court by filing a MOTION. There is no one "MOTION", and a motion can be about just about anything. Our office tends to favor something called a MOTION FOR INTERIM ORDERS which is a convenient way to draft a document that basically says "Hey, Judge, these people are in the process of getting a divorce, but right now they really can't agree on some important stuff and we need you to make a ruling on just these few items so the folks can move past these issues they're arguing about."
Once one party files a motion (either party can, but they each remain Plaintiff and Defendant during the entirety of the case. Once you're the Plaintiff, that's your title on every document from then on during the whole case), the other party has a limited time to respond to the motion. A proper response to a MOTION is an OPPOSITION AND COUNTERMOTION.
The person filing the Opposition and Countermotion gives reasons why the party filing the Motion shouldn't get what they've asked for and why the judge should rule in their favor instead. These documents can be extremely lengthy. Depending upon the level of complexity of the issue at hand and the number of attached exhibits, I've seen Motions and Oppositions & Countermotions exceed several hundred pages!
Once a Motion is filed, and then an Opposition & Countermotion is filed in response, the person who filed the motion can respond yet again by filing a REPLY IN SUPPORT OF MOTION AND OPPOSITION TO COUNTERMOTION. In this document, the Motion-filer acknowledges what the other party said in the opposition to their motion and reaffirms why the court should still grant their original motion. They also include an Opposition to the Countermotion.
Are you confused yet?
|It basically turns into this, except with a lawyer on each side charging |
500 bucks an hour and using a LOT of paper....
Now, you also have to remember that there is really no specified limit to the documents I've been talking about. People can fire motions and oppositions and countermotions and replies and more oppositions back and forth like arrows in any given Lord of the Rings film.
Once it reaches a certain point of disagreement, the lawyers for each side will often times schedule something called an Evidentiary Hearing. This is basically a mini-trial where, after weeks of preparation (and more documents - I'll talk about those in a second), everyone shows up in court in front of a judge and pleads their evidence.
Before an Evidentiary Hearing, both lawyers have an open window of time in which to gather evidence, which the court calls "Discovery". A lawyer can send over pages and pages of questions that the other side, by law, has to answer. One form they can take is something called "Interrogatories". There is a limit of 40 interrogatories a lawyer can propound on the other side, and the questions are designed to address specific issues the couple has. They can be anything, and they generally get uncomfortably personal in nature.
Other types of discovery are "Request for Admissions" in which one side can send over a list of "yes or no" type questions that the other side must answer. These are also very probing questions, depending upon the couple, and it's a way for one side to demand that the other side air all their secrets in open court or risk perjuring themselves if they get caught lying about something.
Another type of written discovery is called "Requests for Production" and these are extremely time consuming. Picture 20 or 30 requests, each of them stating something like:
- Produce your last 6 months of credit card statements, including, but not limited to, any major credit card (American Express, Discover, Visa, MasterCard, etc...) that you have in your name or in the name of your business as well as any store credit cards in your name or under your control (i.e: Kohl's, Victoria Secret, Macy's, Sears, etc...)
- Please Produce and identify by Bates Stamp Number your DMV driving record for the past 10 years.
- Please provide a records release for all of your criminal records.
You can see how personal and intrusive these can get. Each time we do an evidentiary hearing, we have to put all of the evidence we plan to use at the hearing in a 3-ring binder, and we have to present our evidence to the Court and the opposing lawyer. This means that, in total, we have to make FOUR identical 3 ring binders full of evidence.
This can all happen well before a final decree of divorce is submitted and signed by the judge.
So, that is part of the answer to the question that started this entire diatribe, "Why is Divorce So Expensive?"
Basically, the more you and soon-to-be ex-spouse can agree upon, the cheaper it's going to be for you both to get divorced!
If you need a qualified and experienced Divorce attorney, give us a call. We'll be happy to help you through your divorce without costing you unnecessary money. 702-435-2121