Straight Talk About Amicable Divorce
More and more couples approach me with inquiries about alternatives to the traditional two-attorney, court-hearing approach to divorce. Though divorce is always difficult, many couples mutually reach that decision for a multitude of various reasons and decide to part ways amicably. By the time they call me, they’ve often worked out many agreements about how they’ll care for their children and separate their finances, and they “just want to do the paperwork.”
I am both an attorney and a mediator, and I’ve worked with many couples in various ways to assist with amicable divorces. We begin with a consultation to discuss the various ways we can work together to be certain that we are all on the same page about the structure of the process and the responsibilities of each of us.
Sometimes, I represent one person as an Attorney and can therefore advise only that person, though I may meet with both parties to clarify agreements. I prepare the documents according to the agreements the parties have made, and the person who I don’t represent is responsible for bringing the papers to another attorney for a document review and consultation before signing them to be certain he/she is aware of all the ramifications of the proposed agreements.
Sometimes I work with both parties as a Mediator, usually when there are still decisions to be made, and then, serving as a Scribe, I write the documents according to the agreements the couple has made. And, because neither party has legal representation in this scenario, both parties are responsible for reviewing documents with separate attorneys before signing.
Sometimes, when a couple has worked out agreements on all issues, sometimes completely on their own, but often with the help of mediators, child specialists, counselors, and financial advisors, I serve only as a Scribe, writing their documents according to their agreements. Both parties maintain the responsibility for reviewing documents with separate attorneys before signing.
In all of the scenarios I describe above, I assist with the process, making certain the correct steps are taken and documents filed in the correct order.
Typically, costs range from approximately $2500 to $5000 for the work I do with the couple and the document preparation, and another $350 to $750 in filing fees that must be paid to the Clerk of Court when the documents are filed. This estimate includes the petition and service of process documents, a judgment of custody agreement, a judgment of property settlement agreement, and a judgment of divorce; and, it anticipates that the divorce is amicable, and that the couple has worked out agreements between themselves on major issues. Sometimes such things as retirement benefits require special, sometimes complex, additional paperwork, and such things as that are not included in this estimate.
I sign retainer agreements with clients so that we’re all clear about the nature and extent of the work we agree that I will do, and the client makes a retainer deposit. If, for any reason, the work turns out to be more complicated than anticipated and the charges for the time I spend exceeds the retainer deposit, the client may have to pay a bit more; however, if the work requires less time than anticipated, and there is money left once we’ve completed everything, the remainder is returned to the client.
I begin with a consultation in which I meet with both parties to discuss the divorce process, their particular situation and circumstances, and the various ways we can work together. A consultation usually takes about two hours, and the cost is a flat fee of $250.