Category Archives: Divorce

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.

 

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!

Uncontested divorce in Texas documents

In my last post, we discussed the general outline for an agreed or uncontested divorce in the State of Texas.  There was the Original Petition for Divorce, the Waiver of Service (or Waiver of Citation), and the Final Decree of Divorce.  We will discuss each of these documents in this post.

The Original Petition for Divorce begins the agreed divorce process. It is filed with the clerk of the court in the county in which you reside.  It contains the necessary information to obtain your uncontested divorce.  Think of it like a statement being made to the judge; “our marriage is over, and this is what I want”.

There are statements in the petition that must be in there to satisfy requirements of the Texas Family Code in obtaining your agreed divorce.  Other things are optional and are simply requests.  An example of one requirement is a statement that you have lived in the   State of Texas for 6 months and the county in which the divorce was filed for 90-days.  An example of a request would be a request to change your last name.

As discussed in my previous post, the Waiver of Service is used to tell the Texas judge that the spouse has notice of the lawsuit.  Again, there are certain requirements that must be included and others which are not. By example, the waiver must state that the spouse received a copy of the Original Petition for Divorce.  A request would be statements needed to get a name changed.

Additionally, the waiver tells the Texas judge how much the person signing the waiver wants to participate in the divorce.  Some waivers will state that that the Respondent (person being sued, the spouse) requires no further notice of the lawsuit, meaning that the person who filed the petition can get the divorce without any further notice to, or the signatures on the decree of, the spouse.  This is in contrast to a statement in the waiver which says that the spouse wants to either sign the decree or be notified of the final hearing.  Big difference.

The last document is the Final Decree of Divorce which is used to complete or finalize your agreed divorce.  This document must contain all the agreements of the divorce.  Most of these will be discussed in a later post in more depth, but in general, it must divide all property and debts and reflect the agreements as far as any children of the marriage, including child support, visitation and conservatorship (custody).

Again, ALL these items must be agreed upon for your case to be an uncontested or agreed divorce in Texas, and that will be discussed in my next post.

Later!