Many people think of only two options when they consider divorce: with an attorney or without an attorney (by yourself, pro per). Today, more and more people cannot afford to pay large advanced fees for an attorney. Yet, many people still need legal help short of retaining an attorney, from beginning to end. Family law rules and procedures can be complicated, so there are myriad costly mistakes that can be made, some of which you may not even realize for one or two years after your divorce.
Worst of all, how can you possibly know just what you do not know? Maricopa County has some valuable tools to use on their website, but you still may not understand the whole process or procedure. Best Law Firm offers alternatives to help people because we understand the need. Court staff and judges do a great job, but they are often overwhelmed and are not allowed to give you legal advice. So, you need to read this book, become familiar with the process and recognize what additional help you may require. There are many options available to you, depending on your circumstances and finances. Here are some options, from least to most expensive:
1. Complete Do-It-Yourself: Get the forms from the self-help desk at the courthouse or from the court website (see Resource Guide at back of book).
2. Legal Consultation: Pay an attorney by the hour to give you specific legal advice on your issues and then draft your own documents.
3. Attorney Document Preparation: Pay Best Law Firm to draft your documents on a flat fee basis, which includes a free, 15-minute attorney consultation.
4. Attorney Document Preparation and Legal Consultation: Combine number 2 and number 3, with flat fees for document preparation and hourly fees for consultation.
5. Pay for an Attorney Anytime During the Process: When you need some help, such as for a court hearing or when you need an attorney to be your advocate in mediation.
6. Hire an Attorney as a Third Party Neutral Mediator: To get you and your spouse over any impasse in making agreements.
7. Retain an Attorney: pay them an advanced fee (used to be called a retainer), and they will bill you by the hour, from beginning to end.
Clearly, the most expensive option is the last, which is to retain an attorney to handle everything for you. Your attorney will charge you an advance fee anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 or more. Sometimes it seems as if retained counsel are trained to prepare for court and fight every step of the way, rather than sorting things out without going to trial. That is usually not a good idea for you, because it can increase the pain and the cost. The average cost of a divorce can be $18,000 for each side. So, unless you have money to burn, you might consider other options.
Following are two charts that outline the divorce process. The first exemplifies the typical process when both parties have an attorney. The second demonstrates the stages of litigation when the parties work together for their divorce.