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Family Law: Mountains and Molehills

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2014 | Family Law

How can you tell if your attorney is causing you trouble or gouging you?  Our Savannah Family Law Attorney, David Purvis tackles that question in tonight’s post.

One thing that is fairly constant among family law practitioners is that billing is done on an hourly basis. At the onset of a case, while we may be able to formulate what the reasonable end result will be and what rational steps should be taken to get there, we as attorneys don’t know how the opposing party will react to litigation. The opposing party may be reasonable and thus the time and money invested will reflect such. Or the opposing party may dig in their heels, refuse to listen to reason, and what could have been a straightforward case turns into months or years of litigation. Therefore, we have to work on an hourly basis.

Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous attorneys that facilitate this second behavior by creating mountains out of molehills, even if their clients don’t realize that this is happening. If they create a mountain, where only a molehill exists, they can bill many more hours and make a lot more money off of their unfortunate clients.

As a client or prospective client, you can tell rather quickly whether your attorney makes mountains out of molehills.

A “mountain” case in family law could be a very long term marriage with large and detailed assets and debts that must be equitably divided.

A “mountain” case in family law could be a child custody dispute where both parents are great parents and want as much time with their children as possible, (but don’t think that the other parent should).

A “mountain” case in family law could be a child custody case where one parent has no business with unsupervised access to the children.

A “mountain” case in family law is NOT a short duration marriage without children or extensive assets. Those typically fall into the “molehill” category.

If you suspect that your case is more of a “molehill” and your attorney is making a “mountain” out of it so that he can pay for his lifestyle, here are some common traits to look for:

1. Your Complaint or Counterclaim asks for a divorce on the grounds of anything in addition to “irretrievably broken.” This could include grounds for adultery, cruel treatment, desertion, or habitual intoxication. One, if the grounds for divorce is baseless, your attorney is probably just creating a mountain out of a molehill. Two, what gets filed in court is typically open to the public. Why allege behavior that there is no shred of evidence to support?

2. The discovery requests your attorney sends to the opposing party are all over the place and ask about things that are not relevant to your case. Chances are, you have been billed for the catch-all blanket discovery requests that your attorney sends out on every case. Asking questions about children when there are no children of the marriage? Talk about creating a mountain out of a molehill.

You don’t need a law degree to smell trouble. Chances are, if it does not make sense, it isn’t sensible. If you feel like you’re constantly being “sold” on the necessity of something, you’re probably paying for a mountain when a molehill is really all you should have to afford.

Fortunately, as the client, you have the power. You may have to have a very hard talk with your attorney. If he can’t get on board, you may have to send him packing. It is your case. Is it going to be your mountain? Or is it going to be your molehill?

David Purvis