Agreed Divorce – Flat fee vs. Forms Pros and Cons

In my previous post in this series we discussed what exactly an agreed or uncontested divorce is.  While I specifically write about Texas issues, I suppose many of these ideas are similar around the country.

This post is written assuming that you are in total agreement with all the issues discussed in Uncontested Divorce – What Is It?

So you have spoken to your spouse and you are ready to get the divorce rolling.  Now what?  You have a few options:

  1. Contact an attorney and pay them a large sum of money to take your case (the standard model);
  2. Contact an attorney and pay them a flat fee to handle your case; or
  3. Buy the forms from a website or a law office that offers this service, and do the divorce yourself.

All of the above will get you divorced.  The question is how much do you want to spend and what level of participation do you want to have?

In the standard divorce model, you retain an attorney by paying them attorney’s fees in advance (the retainer) that they then use to work on your case at an hourly rate.  For instance, they may charge you a $2,000 retainer and bill at $200 per hour.  You have essentially paid them for 10 hours of work.

There are a few problems with this model.  If it is an agreed situation, there is not typically 10 hours worth of work involved.  So how do they earn their money you ask?  By billing for everything, emails, phone calls, time spent thinking about your case as they watch t.v., whatever.  The point is, they will find a way to earn the attorney fees that you have paid and possibly more.  The pro to this model is that the attorney’s office handles all the work for you.  Obviously the con is that it costs you a fortune and only a local attorney will be able to help you.

In the flat fee divorce model, you still get all the help from the attorney’s office to get you divorced, but you pay a single flat fee (typically much lower than a standard retainer)  that covers all correspondence, document prep, etc…  There are no “hidden fees”.  You do not have to do the legwork yourself (as with the forms divorce described below) and you get the comfort of knowing up front how much it will cost you.  There really are no negative aspects to this other than the fact that only a local attorney will be able to represent you.  Oh, and it does not hurt to have a reputable attorney helping you!

In a “forms” divorce you simply purchase divorce forms, print them out and fill them in.  These types of documents are found at office supply stores, or through major online resources that sell legal documents.  Typically there is no assistance with these documents and they are not state specific to comply with the requirements of a given state.  That is a major con.  The other con is that you must represent yourself, meaning you must go to the courthouse and file your own divorce documents, take care of all the correspondence, figure out all the rules of the specific court you are in – generally do all the things that an attorney typically does for you.  You have to know the procedures.

I have seen so many people trying to do their own divorce be simply turned away by the judge stating “your divorce papers are not right, come back when they are”.  No advise on what is wrong with them, just go fix them.

That is why it is always preferable to seek out an attorney that prepares form divorces.  You still have to represent yourself and do all the leg work, but in the event there is a problem, you have someone to turn to for help.  Additionally, you get documents that are created for your state, not some one size fits all document as well as instructions for how to complete your divorce.

And the best part of the forms divorce, is that you do not need to have a local attorney.  Since you are doing the leg work yourself, you simply need the proper state forms.

I hope this helps in clearing up your options in your agreed divorce.   My office provides all the services mentioned above, so contact me if you need help.

 

Standard Visitation in Texas for April

This month is April…what do we have on tap for Texas standard visitation?

Weekends

Your standard possession weekends for April are Friday, April 4, 2014 (1st Friday) and Friday, April 18, 2014 (3rd Friday).  Remember from earlier posts that the weekends are measured by Fridays.

If you look at a monthly calendar, find the column for Fridays.  Find the first Friday in that column.  That is the first standard visitation weekend under a Texas standard possession order.  Then find the third Friday in that column and maybe even a 5th Friday in that column.  There you have it, a standard visitation order as it applies to weekends.

Thursdays

For Thursdays (or Wednesdays in older orders).  You should have every one this month. those being April 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th.

Holidays

If your children are out on Friday or Monday for the Easter weekend, then the provisions dealing with a long weekend will be in effect as Easter falls on the third weekend of the month.  This means that if your child is out on Good Friday, then the visit which normally would have started on Friday, will now begin at the same time on Thursday.  If they are out Monday, your visit will extend to Monday evening from Sunday evening (assuming your visits end at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday) or return to school on Tuesday if your visits end when school resumes on Monday.

Important Dates

Remember that April 1st of a year is the deadline to pick your extended summer visitation.  If you do not meet the deadline, then it automatically defaults to July 1st to July 31st.

If you are the custodial parent, meaning that you determine the residence of the child and the other parent exercises visitation, then you have until April 15th to designate one weekend inside the above extended summer visitation.  This weekend is typically 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

For instance, if the visiting parent did not designate, we know they get July 1st to July 31st.  You can designate one weekend in the month of July for visitation.  If they did designate, then you have to pick a weekend inside that designated time.

Other than this, I do not see anything that jumps out at me for an April standard visitation order in Texas.  As I always say, READ YOUR ORDER.  Nothing I post here has any relevance if your order is different from the Texas standard possession order.  When in doubt, contact a local attorney to understand your rights and duties.

Uncontested Divorce – What is it?

In my previous post we have discussed the basics of an uncontested divorce in Texas, and the Texas divorce forms that are typically used.

But what exactly is an uncontested divorce in Texas?  An uncontested divorce in Texas means that you have agreed on:

If all of the above are not agreed upon, then you may not have an uncontested divorce.  That doesn’t mean you have to give up on the agreed divorce, but it means you may need some help getting there, for instance mediation.

You may ask what the Court will accept as agreements.  The answer is just about anything you can come up with as long as it does not break the law, or is not totally crazy.

If all of the above are agreed to, then you are ready for an uncontested or agreed divorce.  You have a few choices:

  • A forms divorce or online divorce; or
  • A flat fee divorce

I will discuss the pros and cons of each of those in a later post, but typically an online divorce (or e-divorce) in Texas means you get your divorce papers online.  There is no attorney representation and it is up to you to get the papers filled out and filed with the Court.  This type of uncontested divorce will work anywhere in Texas.

On the flip side of that is the flat fee uncontested divorce.  In this case you are represented by an attorney who charges a one time flat fee.  Typically these fees do not include the filing fees.  The attorney will handle all the paperwork and accompany you to court to finalize your case.  This type of uncontested divorce will only work with attorneys in the counties around where you reside.

In my next post we will talk about the pros and cons of each type of uncontested divorce discussed above and answer a few more questions which may arise.

Talk to you soon!