Almost every divorce client walks in to an attorney's office and the first thing they ask about is the Uncontested Divorce. And, its to be expected. Most law firms charge a flat rate for Uncontested Divorces, and the fee is usually less than what most people expect to pay for a Divorce. The truth is, there is no Uncontested Divorce.
What an attorney means when they advertise an Uncontested Divorce, is that if both parties are willing to enter into what is commonly referred to as a Property Settlement, or Stipulation Agreement, the attorney will draft an Agreement and the other necessary filings for a flat rate. But, most people in a Divorce are not in agreement about the matters in a Property Settlement Agreement.
A Property Settlement Agreement covers every aspects of the parties marriage from their home, vehicles, credit card debt, spousal support, child support, healthcare for children, etc. These are issues which most people may have an idea about but are not 100% sure on which side they fall. Of course, if an attorney says a party is entitled to spousal support, they are almost always willing to fight out a Contested Divorce to obtain this support. If not, then they will almost always compromise on the issue - even paying spousal support in some cases to leave the marriage in good will.
There are also a few pitfalls to an Uncontested Divorce that every client should be aware of. For example, does the flat fee cover court costs, depositions, service of process and what about postage? Many law firms have hidden fees with an Uncontested Divorce. Some firms charge between $75 and $100 per page for changes to the Agreement. Some of these changes maybe as simple as changing whether the Husband or Wife will cover the children's health insurance. This will take an attorney only moments to alter and a bill goes out for a $100.
What should a client do then? The best advice for someone hoping to keep their Divorce cost low and follow down the path of an Uncontested Divorce is to sit down with your spouse and write out the property that each of you intend to keep, any child custody arrangements, or even who will be responsible for what portion of the family debt. Something as simple as writing out who gets what can save hundreds of dollars in attorneys fees.
If you are considering an Uncontested Divorce - give me a call or email and I can help you work through these matters in a cost effective and efficient way.