I frequently receive telephone calls from potential clients asking, “How much does it cost for a simple divorce?” Often, the more I discuss their situation with these individuals, the less “simple” their case really turns out to be. If a case can be settled by agreement, and without the need for me or my client to appear in court, the total cost to the client will be much less than it would be if one or more court appearances are required.
In these difficult financial times, everyone wants to minimize the attorney fees that they have to pay to resolve their case. My goal is, and has always been, to help resolve my client’s cases as easily, quickly, and inexpensively as possible and with the best outcome for my clients. I pride myself in having been able to settle the vast majority of my client’s cases by agreement.
There may be many legal issues and possible ways to resolute those issues that most laypeople are not aware of, and therefore do not even consider. The job of a good family law attorney is to provide their clients with a thorough and complete analysis of their factual and legal situation as well as the possible scenarios for the best resolution of their issues. Then, through skilled negotiation, a settlement frequently can be reached that is fair and reasonable. Of course, no one can force an unreasonable person on the other side of the case to settle. That is when a judicial resolution through a court hearing or trial is required. I stand ready to represent my clients in a court battle if needed, but try my best to avoid one if it is not required.
Sometimes I hear from potential clients who say they have reached an agreement with their spouse, and plan to write up the settlement documents themselves or have a paralegal do it for them. In all but the simplest cases, which are those where the parties have no children or property, that is not a wise way to attempt to save money. Settlement and judgment documents need to be complete, thorough and unambiguous. Trying to draft such documents by yourself, when you are not a skilled family law attorney, is like trying to fix your car yourself when you are not a skilled automotive mechanic. Usually you do more harm than good.
Unfortunately, this is also what may occur if a document preparation service or a paralegal is used to prepare the settlement documents and judgment. I have had a number of cases where parties have used a paralegal to prepare settlement papers because it was inexpensive, and then, some years later, learned that the documents had not been properly drafted. A dispute then arose when the party’s ex-spouse tried to capitalize on that fact by contending that the documents meant something other than they were supposed to mean. So begins a very costly court fight to clean up the mess the unskilled document preparation caused. This is a textbook example of the truism “penny wise and pound foolish.”
I stand ready to prepare settlement and judgment documents for my clients which give them the peace of mind of knowing that their settlement has been clearly, fairly and unambiguously drafted.