Is a Flat-Fee Divorce Right for You?
Most people who are getting divorced want to end their marriage as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible. A flat-fee divorce can be a great option for you, if you are looking to get the most “bang for your buck” when hiring a lawyer, provided you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all (or nearly all) issues. In other words, you have made it through arguably the most challenging part of your divorce, in that you have negotiated an agreement as to both child-related issues and property division.
One benefit of a flat-fee model is that there are no “hidden fees.” You do the legwork of reaching an agreement with your spouse, but the lawyer does the paperwork portion of the divorce. Therefore, you have the comfort of knowing up front how much it will cost you, as well as the comfort of knowing that an attorney has ensured the paperwork is drawn up correctly. You are not left second-guessing if your forms are correct or if your divorce will be granted. People appreciate the certainty of knowing exactly what they are getting for the money spent and being able to stick to a budget.
People may confuse a “forms” divorce with a flat-fee divorce. Although a “forms” divorce certainly saves money, it has substantial drawbacks. In a pro se “forms” divorce, you may find free forms or purchase forms online, print them, and complete them. Generally, there is no assistance with these documents and many are not state specific, which is problematic, given that divorce law varies drastically from state to state. In addition, you are pro se (representing yourself), so you must go to the courthouse, file the Original Petition for Divorce yourself, handle correspondence and filings with the Court, determine the local rules and requirements of your specific court/county, which are all things that an attorney normally would do for you. I have seen many pro se people turned away by the judge and all they are told is something along the lines of “these documents are not correct – come back when they are,” with no advice or assistance on how to fix them.
Another benefit is that the attorney also hopes to achieve the desired outcome as quickly as possible, which typically aligns with the client’s objectives. Flat-fee divorce plans include all attorney’s fees and filing fees, so long as your case continues as a flat-fee divorce case. The flat-fee agreement with your attorney will outline what he/she will do for that flat fee, as well as what he/she will not do. In the event your flat-fee case becomes a contested divorce, any unearned fees from your flat-fee payment will be credited towards a litigation retainer or refunded to you.
Generally speaking, the spouses’ relationship with each other is the most influential factor in determining the cost of a divorce. Bear in mind that not all cases are appropriate for a flat-fee divorce. For example, if you do not know what assets and debts are in your estate, and need an attorney to obtain this information from your spouse, then a flat-fee divorce may not be the best fit for you. Another example of when a flat-fee divorce plan may not be right for you is if you and your spouse are not able to reach an agreement with respect to temporary child support or temporary spousal support.
It is important to note that the flat-fee divorce should not be chosen merely as a cheap option, as seeking a “cheap” divorce may end up costing you in the long run. It is always best to meet with an experienced lawyer to become educated and to assess your options first. To see if the flat-fee divorce is an option for you, take this quiz or contact GoransonBain Ausley, PLLC for more information.
Controlling the cost of divorce is crucial to most people, especially when you are faced with transitioning from living on two incomes to one. Rather than trying to take your spouse to the cleaners seeking retaliation, it is better to use that energy to work out as many issues as you can. By avoiding a costly contested divorce, you can use your money and energy to move on with your life post-divorce.
This post was written by Kelly Caperton Fischer.
“I provide conscientious, practical, and diligent legal representation to clients who want a constructive, intelligent and future-focused approach to resolving family law matters.” — Kelly Caperton Fischer