By Arizona Divorce Lawyer Julie LaBenz
PART 1: To hire a divorce lawyer or not, that is the question.
In order to spend less on a divorce, a full service lawyer will likely not be the cheapest option. More affordable alternatives include hiring a “limited scope” divorce attorney or representing yourself.
Lawyers often respond to client questions with, “It depends,” and often use this response when asked to quote the final amount of legal fees for a new matter.
Because most lawyers bill their clients by the hour (usually at $200 to $400 or more per hour), the client is expected to pay a large advanced fee deposit up front and then continue to pay more when that initial deposit is exhausted.
With many aspects of a divorce case being out of a lawyer’s control, the final cost when hourly billing is used, is usually unknown. Even if a lawyer tries really hard to resolve a divorce, if the other side doesn’t want to settle and plays games, then the hourly fees will pile up and the case could cost as much or more than college tuition for the kids.
Certainly, it’s ideal to have the right lawyer handle the entire case. Yet, not everyone has thousands to spend on an attorney while others have the money but simply don’t want to spend it on a lawyer.
Luckily, alternatives exist to the do-everything-for-you billable hour attorney where the client has no idea what the final cost of their divorce lawyer will be.
Although fraught with challenges and a steep learning curve, one option is to represent yourself. The Arizona courts provide free fill-in-the-blank court forms at the on-line “self-service center.”
Those that use the court forms may (at least at the outset) conclude that they’re saving money. But they may find they end up paying much more if, a year or more later, they end up back in court fighting over the meaning of the terms in their poorly drafted divorce settlement agreement or if one side requests to change the terms.
As a result, representing yourself without obtaining any legal information or individualized case advice can be risky.
Instead of handling everything on your own, another option is to hire a lawyer, but only on a limited basis. That way, the lawyer and client can decide the type of work the lawyer will perform and the cost. This gives the client more certainty in regards to their legal fees plus individualized case advice and assistance.
Thus, utilizing limited scope legal services can be an effective way to save money during a divorce.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this 5 Part Series. In Part 2 I’ll provide a procedural tip that can save $40 to $200 or more in legal costs when filing for divorce.
Thinking about handling your own divorce using the court’s fill in the blank forms? Already started using the forms and running into problems? Sign up for Julie’s DIVORCE SCHOOL and empower yourself with legal information aimed at helping spouses achieve a fair and efficient divorce case outcome. To learn more and to sign up, click here.
Arizona Lawyer Julie A. LaBenz has been practicing law since 2006. Currently, you’ll find her in Sedona handling divorce, child custody, estate planning, probate, business planning, DUI defense matters and more. To learn more about Julie, please visit www.JulieLaBenz.com.
Disclaimers: 1) This article consists of legal information only and is not legal advice; 2) By reading this article Julie LaBenz does not become your attorney; 3) Julie LaBenz is licensed to practice in the state of Arizona in the jurisdictions in which she’s admitted to practice law.