Getting divorced? How as-needed attorney services can help get you through the process & not break the bank

Thinking about getting a divorce?  Already have one in process – with or without an attorney – and feeling lost?  Not sure where to turn, but are afraid to consult with an attorney and face thousands of dollars in fees?

These were the situations that I saw every day practicing family law litigation for several years.  So many divorcing parties needed help but couldn’t afford full representation.  Most were already quite savvy when it came to the divorce process, but there are some questions that you just really need an attorney’s help and expertise.  But there was no resource for those litigants who wanted help with one specific issue (and not anything else) or one hearing or one declaration.  The free services at the courthouse did the best they could, but were often crowded or couldn’t help with a specific legal issue.  Most traditional attorneys would only take the whole case.  Some litigants tried to do their own online research, but still had trouble finding the specific advice needed…plus that can get really overwhelming really fast.

We decided to start offering clients as-needed services for their divorce cases, so we can help with smaller issues that come up and not take on the entire case. In formal, legal terms, this is called “unbundled services.” Since most non-lawyers don’t know that term, we use the phrase “as needed” services.

This is where we come in.  Our expertise is best used in these situations:

  1. You’re thinking about a divorce but have no idea how to proceed or how the process works or what to expect or what the law provides in your situation.  You can get all the advice you can hear from your neighbor, sister and cousin who got divorced, but they are not going to be able to give you specific legal advice.
  2. Your divorce is going fine, but you and your spouse are stuck on one issue.  Either you have a sticky area of your divorce that’s holding up settlement (custody, support, property division, etc.), a procedural stumbling block you can’t overcome (how do you move your case forward when the other side is stalling?), or you are having trouble completing documents (what are disclosures?  How do you file your Judgment paperwork?).
  3. You have a lawyer but can’t ever get in touch with him/her or feel that s/he is not giving you the attention you want or need.  Or, you think you can do something, and your attorney has said no, and you think that’s wrong.  Most clients don’t want to fire their attorney for fear of having to start over with someone else and pay a lot of money up front.  This is where a Family Law Coach can help to give you a second opinion on how to proceed, at a fraction of the cost of hiring a new lawyer.

Most traditional attorney consultations start blind, that is, the attorney has no idea what your story is.  We work a little differently, taking as much information as we can in advance of your appointments so that we can spend as much time as possible not gathering the basic information, but rather answering your specific questions and giving you specific advice.  There is no pressure because I have no vested interest in “making the sale” and having you hire me for your case.  With unbundled services, we can work on a flat fee basis in some instances as well as work on a short-term hourly basis.  High on specific, experienced, attorney advice, low on cost.

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Do-it-yourself lawyers: saving money and gaining empowerment in California divorce

A recent New York Times article starts off by saying, “America’s courts are built on a system of rules and procedures that assume that almost everyone who comes to court has a lawyer. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different…Litigants who cannot afford a lawyer, … are on their own — pro se. What’s more, they’re often on their own in cases involving life-altering situations like divorce, child custody and loss of shelter.”

THIS is why I do what I do. The vast majority of family law litigants do not have lawyers, and they need help. They need help finding out what their case is all about (what are they entitled to? How do they get there?), how to fill out documents, how to appear before the court, and how to complete their case and be successful.

The article is here: New York Times Article.

Before, attorneys were only permitted to act on an all or nothing basis. We could represent clients in every aspect, or not at all. This helps the pocketbooks of lawyers, but not clients very much. It also doesn’t help the inherent underlying conflict between attorney and client: Resolving a case informally is most often better for the client and is MUCH, MUCH less expensive than litigation. Moving forward with litigation is easier and MUCH, MUCH more lucrative for the attorney. This presents a problem for attorneys and clients that isn’t often talked about, and can lead to problems for both.

Working on an as-needed or hourly basis with family law clients, family law attorneys are able to work in perfect concert with clients, giving them precisely what they need and presenting all the available options with no attachment to any of them. Clients not only are able to save money and learn what options are best for them, they are empowered to direct their own case, and the resolution thereof. Studies indicate unanimously that litigants who actively participate in the direction and resolution of their own case are the most satisfied and happiest with the outcomes.

We are a nation in which the fairness of the process means a great deal. Representing yourself with a well-qualified coach can make the process work for anyone involved in a family law case.