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.

 

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