Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Turdsday. Shit I've Learned about Divorce #3: The Retainer

Last Thursday I didn't dispense any divorce advice because my washing machine overflowed and leaked into my kitchen ceiling.

Think of divorce proceedings as a leak. Not water (oh, there will be tears, sure) but money. At the very beginning of the end of your world you will sign a retainer agreement or a retainer letter from your attorney. Mine is two and a half pages long--single spaced. I don't think I read it, and if I did, I don't remember reading it. This was my brain on grief. All circuits flooded.

My advice today is: READ YOUR RETAINER AGREEMENT. There are different types of retainer agreements, and you should know what type exactly yours is. I would suggest having a friend over for a cup of coffee or something not in the stimulant category--and having that good friend sit next to you on the couch, read the agreement, look you in the eye, and tell you what it says. Maybe even write in big block letters at the top of each page some key points. One very important thing your retainer letter will disclose is your attorney's hourly rates. The attorney's hourly rates might perhaps even  figure into the choice of your attorney.

Here's what I've learned about hourly rates this week:
Appliance repair: $119.00
Electrician: $70.00
Painter: $30.00 Paint crew head guy: $32.00
Cabinet refinishers: (the special rate): $18.00
My divorce attorneys: $500.00 for the senior partner; $415.00 for the other partner

Read it and weep. Denial is a river in Egypt as they say. Step out onto dry land and realize that every conversation, every email, every phone call with your attorney will cost you money. You probably have homeowner's insurance, but I'll bet you don't have divorce insurance.

Oh, and another thing about retainers. The retainer might not even come close to what the final tab will be. The final cost to you may be--oh, ten or twelve times more. So, my dear potential dwellers of Divorceville, I hope you retain this advice. That's my toaster in the photo above. On the floor of my living room. I made breakfast there this morning. No big deal--compared to a divorce.

Just tryin' to give ya some tools.

Cuz it can be a mess.

My divorce advice disclaimer: I am not an attorney, a paralegal, or a legal secretary. Nor do I possess any legal education or credentials of any kind other than having been married to an attorney for three decades and immediately thereafter involved in divorcing him for the next four years. My advice is based solely on my own experience and falls under the broader life heading of Damn It,  If Only I'd Known Then What I Know Now. 


Jules said...

These last few entries have a lovely bittersweet quality. A tongue in cheek acceptance of living in the present no matter what it takes or brings. So cool.

Anonymous said...

Lawyers are fucking expensive.

Love your floor.

Milky Tea said...

Hi Denise,

Sorry that the legal process is costing you an arm and a leg. I regret to tell you that I too am an attorney here in my country. We rarely take up divorce work, just for the sheer emotional trauma that we live through with our clients when they unburden themselves... In fact we avoid it like the plague and only do work where both parties agree to work with us for an equitable settlement. At the back of our mind is a singular objective, to do what's right for the children (if any) of the marriage. I guess we must not really be good lawyers because we don't care much about the money. Our clients would take out pictures of their children out of their wallet, or in their cellphone, and we suddenly become part of their life. And what we advise will affect these children who have done absolutely no wrong for years to come. We try what we can to suppress the ill temper (and some of which, we must confess appears to be well justified) between the parties and call upon their better conscience and love for their children... it is not the easiest thing in the world, but sometimes, happily, the parties leave the forum of divorce, shaking hands if perhaps with a little sadness written in their eyes... I know this, because my own divorce was organised by my beloved partners here. And they agreed only after one year of me and my ex-spouse trying to resolve our differences. My ex is now married, and I am very happy for her. My son has two homes and now two fathers, me and my ex often talk and we can laugh and joke. So if you can ever call a divorce a 'good divorce', this is one of them... When we mutually determined to divorce, we both agreed that we married in the best of intentions, so thus we also decided that if we must divorce, we must do so with the same spirit... It has been a good 4 years of divorce now. I have much to be thankful for...

See you later Denise! I think you are doing an awesome job with your home!