Monday, June 09, 2008

Bleeding a turnip

My divorce has been final for 2.5 years. During the process (about 11 months), my legal fees were in the $25,000 range. You read that right, 25 k, 25 big ones, twenty-five thousand dollars. A brand new car worth of fees.

I'm not a celebrity or a CEO or an owner of a sports team. Just a regular person who went through a painful divorce.

I'm sure you're wondering why I didn't cut off the legal spending earlier in the process. The truth is, I never received an invoice from my attorney, and I had assumed that the initial retainer I gave was covering it. In hindsight, I'm angry with myself for not questioning the costs. But with the state I was in (mostly paralyzing fear) I have to give myself a break. I did what I thought was best at the time.

You can imagine my surprise then, when the attorney's office called me in March and told me that I owed almost $10,000 more. I freaked out. All the pain and fear came rushing back at me. Let's just say it was an unpleasant couple of days to be around me.

I gained some control over myself. Spent some time trying to get the invoices*. Spent more time going through the invoices. And, putting my college degree to work, added up the figures to nearly $35,000 in legal fees. That doesn't include Nemo's lawyer, or the mediator who was paid probably another $5000 between us. I knew that divorces were expensive, but never in my wildest dreams figured they were about the average-American's-annual-salary expensive.

* Up until this March, I had never received an invoice. I never once saw on paper what I was billed for. I insisted that they send this to me, and after getting it wrong twice, I finally received a copy of my entire account. Nothing on it looks suspicious (but how can I remember, it was 3 years ago!) unless you have a problem being billed for 3 hours of internet time at the full attorney hourly rate.

There are so many factors to this situation, I can't possibly type that much. But I will say, this is a highly respected law firm in my area. They've done some pretty high profile cases, because I've seen them in the newspaper.

On the advice of a family member with a law degree, I've sent a letter outlining all the mistakes that were made. I'm still waiting to hear back from them.

Besides the fact that I don't have $10,000, it's not the amount of money that angers me. One way or another I believe it will all work out. Things always do. What I'm mad at is that the person/firm I put my trust in misled me. Maybe unintentionally, but I had been led to believe (for 2.5 years) that with the divorce decree, all the fees were wrapped up.

I feel like I've been stabbed in the back by someone I trusted. (sounds familiar) It was even suggested to me that I get a lawyer to fight my original lawyer. Aaaaagggghhhh!!!!

It's left me wondering, just when does all this end?

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