Flat Fee Divorce Versus Collaborative Divorce

Most individuals going through a divorce are looking to avoid a costly legal battle.  They don’t want to spend a lot of money in attorney’s fees.  They don’t want to air their dirty laundry in court.  They don’t want their family to have to spend the emotional energy.  They are looking for an amicable resolution.

That attracts a lot of individuals to the idea of a flat fee, uncontested divorce.  On a lot of levels, this makes sense — if it were possible.  The parties could retain a flat fee attorney.  The costs would be capped.  The divorce could then be resolved quickly and amicably.  It sounds like the perfect scenario for many.

Where does this thought go wrong in many instances?  First, an attorney can only represent one party in a divorce.  Based on conflict of interests rules, one attorney cannot represent both the husband and the wife.  This means that with the flat fee divorce, one party to the divorce is probably going to have an attorney, while the other party will not have representation.

For the party who does not have an attorney, they cannot ask for legal advice from the attorney their spouse has retained for the flat fee divorce. They cannot ask whether the proposed settlement is fair and reasonable.  They cannot ask whether they could possibly do better.  If they want this, they need to hire their own attorney.  In almost any divorce, this can be dangerous and could negatively impact the party who does not have an attorney.

Additionally, to settle a divorce, the parties have to agree on one-hundred percent of everything.  They have to agree on physical and legal custody.  On physical custody, they have to agree on the exact schedule and the days and times.

With marital property and debt, the parties also have to agree on how they are dividing everything.  From the house and the contents, to the cars, to the retirement accounts, to the credit cards, etc., there has to be total agreement.

On spousal support, if the parties agree spousal support is going to be paid, they have to agree on the amount and the duration.  In many cases, the parties can disagree on all three items.

On child support, they have to agree on the amount of child support for each child of the marriage.  Parties also have to agree on daycare costs, health care costs, educational and extracurricular costs.  In many cases, there can be disagreement on one or more of these issues.

If the parties don’t agree on one or more items, those issues have to be agreed upon before an uncontested divorce can be completed.  For many parties, this is where the uncontested, flat fee divorce can go awry.  All of a sudden, the flat fee divorce can turn into a litigious divorce because the parties do not agree on one or more items.

This is where collaborative divorce can help.  In collaborative divorce, each party has their own attorney trained in collaborative practice.  They also enlist the help of other professionals like a divorce coach (or two coaches in some instances), a financial neutral and a child custody professional to help the parties resolve the differences that do exist.

In many cases, a discourse and multiple meetings in the collaborative process can help parties resolve their divorce outside of court.  This is where collaborative practice can offer tangible benefits to those seeking to resolve their divorce outside of court.

If you are interested in talking to an attorney about a collaborative divorce, you can contact us online or call us at 1-855-805-0595.

Author: Kirk C. Stange, Esq.

Kirk Stange is a Founding Partner at Stange Law Firm, PC.

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