Are you getting what you pay for with a cheap divorce in Texas? Fort Worth uncontested divorce lawyer discusses
There are a lot of lawyers and non-lawyers offering services with uncontested divorces in Tarrant County and Dallas County. Many of these entities offering low cost uncontested divorces offer prices far below what most divorce attorneys charge. Not all uncontested divorce services in north Texas may provide the right services, even if they offer the right prices. You may be able to get away with using a low cost option; although down the road you may regret the decision when you find out low cost also came with low value. In other situations low cost uncontested divorce services turned into an expensive service once the client realized the original, cut rate deal wasn’t everything expected.
Uncontested divorce lawyers for Fort Worth, Texas
Here are some of the other players in the uncontested divorce market in north Texas:
- Do-It-Yourself websites and form kits. There are websites that offer a mad libs approach to legal forms for a few hundred dollars. Some other websites out there sell kits at a cheaper price where you fill in the blanks on your own. These options are fine if you have the skills to draft legal documents. Unfortunately, this is probably a skill set you thankfully have not had to develop. These form kits and websites make it easy to draft divorce documents; but the quality of the forms is limited by the quality of your drafting. If you incorrectly explain the property division or child custody issues then you could permanently lock yourself into a terrible arrangement or at least have to spend many more times the original cost to change it. One thing many people do not understand is that these websites do not include the costs of filing for divorce. You still have to pay the courts.
- Paralegals and other non-lawyers. Unbelievably, there are quite a few rogue paralegals and disbarred attorneys roaming the internet (especially Craigslist) pretending to practice law at cheap prices by promising to fill out all of your divorce paperwork and walk you through the divorce process. You might get acceptable work from these individuals illegally practicing law without a license; but remember they have either never trained as lawyers or failed to meet the ethical responsibilities of a lawyer. That is no substitute for the services of a lawyer. If these non-lawyers make an error in drafting then you could end up in the same boat as if you had filled out one of those form kits. They may see themselves as offering legal services at an affordable rate but this is really a case of getting what you pay for. These people have no ethical obligations to perform those services with the same ethical guidelines or responsibilities to you as a bar-licensed attorney.
- Divorce lawyers with too good to be true prices. There are divorce law firms in north Texas that offer unbelievably low prices. Sometimes even cheaper than the DIY options or non-lawyers. These firms typically operate on a volume business model. They bring in lots of clients and make a little money off the basic services on each client. That’s not too bad if you have simple needs. However, you really need to look at the add-on costs. Many of these firms charge for each email or phone call and inflate prices to print documents for you. I have seen some of these firms charging $50+ per phone call (even if it is just a status request) and that just gets you a few minutes with a paralegal. That $200 uncontested divorce can turn into several hundred dollars more just in the course of making arrangements to complete your divorce. Read the fine print.
- Divorce lawyers charging too much. On the other hand, there are some divorce lawyers who incidentally handle uncontested divorces but do not have an efficient process to handle uncontested divorces and charge almost as much for an uncontested divorce as they do for a contested divorce. You will likely get good services from a reputable divorce attorney but if your budget is tight it may be more money than you need to spend for quality legal representation.
- Websites that outsource work to lawyers. Sort of in between the DIY websites and volume divorce law firms exist websites that solicit uncontested divorces at low prices. They insist that lawyers work on your divorce paperwork and ensure the process goes smoothly. I am not really sure there are lawyers involved in each of these or how much involvement there is in the process but to the extent lawyers are involved in some oversight, you at least have a remedy against those managing attorneys if the services offered are beneath the ethical standards set by the State Bar of Texas.
Issues to consider in a cheap divorce in Fort Worth, Dallas and Bedford, Texas
There are people who get their divorces done through these avenues and in some they work out just fine (at least in the short term) but I have had more than one client come to me because they ended up in a worse place and ended up spending more money to get bailed out of the mess created and get on the right track. So the “cheaper” option ended up being considerably more expensive than if they had come to me in the first place. Before selecting any option to help you with your uncontested divorce, consider these issues:
- What will you do if you need advice on how to deal with property division or child custody issues? There may not be an option for you to gain additional information about how you should make these decisions or what the effect will be of how you choose to deal with those issues. If there is somebody to talk to, it may be an expensive discussion as part of the hidden fees charged along the way.
- What will you do if you get lost in the judicial procedure getting a divorce? Again, will there be somebody to talk to? The court clerks cannot and will not advise you how to get a divorce. You may find yourself lost amid the judicial process with nobody to bail you out. Most uncontested divorce services have minimal involvement with the courts. If you need help you will likely pay extra for it.
- What extra fees will they charge? You should know up front the fees involved if you need help, communications and copies along the way. The flat fee you pay up front may only pay a limited part of the services you need. If you have a limited budget then it probably harmful to have hundreds of dollars in fees show up along the way.
- Is anybody looking out for your best interests? If you just have forms printed then nobody is looking out for your interests. If you go through some kind of business or law firm then you need to know if anybody is giving you more than just typing up documents for you. Will anybody make sure your divorce actually happens? Or will anybody talk to you about the ramifications of the property division and custody arrangement?
- Will the court lump you into the pro se process? In most counties the family courts divide out the pro se parties and require them to jump through several extra hoops so the judges are not put in the awkward position of having to reject your divorce decree but leave you with no direction how to fix it. (The judge cannot give you legal advice.) Many counties require you to go through special training courses. Some counties will not let you even appear in court until an overworked staff attorney reviews your decree. In some places that adds months to your divorce process because there is such a backlog to review. If you are not represented by counsel who will put his or her name on your paperwork then you are likely going into this very slow process.
- How unique is your property division or child custody arrangement? The more specific and unique your property division and/or custody arrangement, the more likely it is to need very specific language and come along with opportunities for poor drafting to cause long term problems for you. The more unique your divorce must be to give effect to the property division and custody arrangement, the better off you are having an attorney draft and review the language to avoid creating those problems. There is nothing wrong with agreeing to an arrangement with your soon-to-be-ex that works best for the two of you but you need to make sure your divorce decree accurately reflects your agreement.
- What will you do if property or custody issues remain unresolved by the divorce? If you take a stab at drafting your own divorce documents you may leave important issues unresolved. The cost of leaving those issues unaddressed may be several times the cost of a well-drafted divorce decree. Battles over unresolved property or custody issues can be thousands of dollars on each side in legal fees. You could spend a fraction of that money to deal with them in your divorce decree. This is where a non-lawyer may not know to probe about these issues.
- How long will it take to produce documents? Websites and form kits will produce forms immediately; but with a business or law firm you need to know when you can expect to receive your documents. I have seen people wait months for documents. If time is important to you then the speed of drafting matters.
- Will you have to pay for each modification of your documents? Some of the uncontested divorce options discussed above will charge you to modify the documents. Even to include minor changes and even if the incorrect language is not your fault. Do you know about these extra fees before you paid up front? Will it still be cheaper when you have to pay $100 to fix the spelling on your car model?
- If there are hidden problems with your property division or custody arrangement, will anybody proactively mention them to you? A website doesn’t know whether your property division is a good idea. Many uncontested divorce services will spit out documents without any mention of these consequences. Do you consider that good value? An important part of a lawyer’s job is advising clients how to avoid future risks. If you aren’t working with a lawyer to advise you then you have to hope for the best.
If you do not feel confident that the path to divorce you have chosen sufficiently addresses these concerns then perhaps it is not the right path for you.