What You Need to Know About Divorce Lawyers With Free Consultation
When you are facing the stress and expense of a divorce, it is natural to think that one of the first things you should look for is a free consultation with a local divorce lawyer.
Should You Want a Free Consultation?
Free consultations are heavily advertised by divorce lawyers all over the web. That’s because a free consultation is often a better deal for the divorce lawyer than the divorce consumer.
But “free” must be good, right? “Free” CAN be good, but “free” may not be what you want. That’s because in most divorce cases your goal should be to keep your overall cost low, not just one cost component, such as the initial consultation. The complete cost you will pay for your whole divorce is more important than a free consultation up front.
Uncontested Divorce – Probably NO Free Consultation
There are two categories of divorce – contested and uncontested. By some estimates, uncontested divorces are now 75-80% of all divorces.
An uncontested divorce is simply any divorce in which you and your spouse/partner will not contest or legally dispute any issue in your case. It doesn’t mean that either of you are happy. It doesn’t even mean that there are no disputes between you. It just means that neither of you will be disputing any issue legally. Any actual disputes are considered by BOTH of you NOT to justify a much higher traditional divorce lawyer retainer fee on a contested case.
An uncontested divorce is definitely the best way to go, if possible.
Contested Divorce – Get a Free Consultation
Contested divorces are those in which you and your spouse/partner will be disputing at least one issue. All contested cases will eventually become uncontested if both parties remain alive long enough.
Contested cases become uncontested by either mediation, negotiation and/or litigation until no disputes remain. They are expensive and they will generally involve a retainer fee of $3500-$7500-$10000 and way up (depending on the lawyer’s experience level, how good s/he claims to be, the lawyer’s interpretation of the facts of your case and how much money you have, which you will be telling the lawyer in advance).
After the retainer has been eaten up (don’t worry, it will be) at maybe $300-$450 an hour, you will be billed hourly at usually the same rate until the case has been settled or one of you runs out of money or dies.
Know What Trends Favor You!
Right now, divorce law practice is extremely competitive. There are way too many divorce lawyers and way too many lawyers who say they could handle divorce if only someone would hire them. It is a buyer’s market that favors you, the divorce consumer. But you have to recognize and avoid the traditional pitfalls while taking advantage of the newer trends that are your friends.
One of the current developing trends in US divorce law practice is lower flat-fee unbundled document review legal service packages. Those packages are perfect for uncontested divorces. In this way, many divorce law practices have become non-litigation practices.
The divorce lawyer structures several flat-fee packages depending on the facts of your case and the services you want the lawyer to perform and those you would rather do yourself. For example, you might be prepared to file your legal documents yourself at your local court and to arrange for service of process on your spouse rather than to pay a divorce lawyer to perform those relatively easy but time consuming tasks.
You simply pick the uncontested divorce package that suits the facts of your case and your budget. If your divorce remains uncontested and no unexpected issues arise, you will already know your total cost up front.
Such unbundled packages will contain a consultation component. For example, a package may contain 2 or 3 15-minute phone/zoom calls or a fixed number of email responses from the lawyer. You can purchase more consultation if you need it.
However, unbundled legal packages for uncontested divorce will likely not be offered with a free consultation up front. At least, not unless the unbundled package is not as cheap as it should be.
It is very difficult, in a competitive market, for a divorce lawyer who would like to remain in business, and you DO want your divorce lawyer to remain in business, to offer BOTH a free consultation AND a low cost flat-fee package in the same case. If you only get one of those, it’s definitely the low-cost flat-fee package that you really want.
What If You’re Not ABSOLUTELY Sure Your Case is Uncontested?
So what to do if you are reasonably sure that your divorce is and will remain uncontested but you do have a question or two you’d like to be answered by a lawyer BEFORE you proceed. Often such answers determine whether your divorce will remain uncontested.
You have three choices. You can either (1) try to find a divorce lawyer who offers free consultation, (2) pay for a consultation or (3) you can hire the low-cost unbundled divorce lawyer and then just use one or more of your phone/zoom calls to ask your questions. Yes, you will have paid more money than the cost of a paid consultation, but the alternative was to pay for BOTH a $200-$300 30-minute consultation and an uncontested flat-fee package.
If you opt to try the free consultation route, BEWARE. You may receive a small amount of actual legal advice if the lawyer believes that is necessary to keep you on the phone.
However, for the practical economic reasons stated above, a divorce lawyer who offers free consultation is not a low flat-fee unbundled uncontested divorce lawyer. S/he is a traditional retainer fee and hourly treadmill lawyer. The traditional lawyer’s entire purpose in a “free consultation” is to get you to hire him or her at a huge retainer fee. That’s all. Why would a lawyer in business give away unnecessary free information or advice to a consumer who hasn’t yet hired him or her?
Also, the lawyer is going to be much better than you at the “game” of free consultation. The lawyer will likely have done this dozens, if not hundreds, of time. They are listening to your innocent explanation of your case for two things: indications of how much money you have and what are your greatest fears in the case.
Their sole purpose is to scare the crap out of you about something that MIGHT happen in your case (but almost certainly won’t) UNLESS you hire them. Don’t fall for it. It’s a dishonest and expensive trap. You only need this traditional lawyer if your case is known to be contested or unexpectedly becomes contested.
How To Handle What MIGHT Happen
A headache may be a brain tumor, but it probably isn’t. You don’t hire a brain surgeon (traditional lawyer) as soon as you get a headache. You take an aspirin and lie down (unbundled uncontested package).
The intelligent way to handle what MIGHT happen in your case is to know about the possibility in advance and then watch to see if it begins to happen. The uncontested divorce lawyer will advise you of any REALISTIC potential problems in your case in one or more of those included phone/zoom sessions after you’ve hired him or her for a flat-fee package. S/he does that realistically because s/he has no need to scare the crap out of you.
S/he has already brought you through the door at a lower cost.
If the potential problem does occur, then you take care of it through bigger and more-expensive packages offered by that same lawyer. However, you don’t pay more unless there is an existent reason for doing so. You don’t pay more just because a lawyer tries to scare you.
On the other hand, if your case will be contested (or if technically uncontested but also contains domestic violence issue or threats of domestic violence), forget about low flat-fee unbundled legal services packages. Under those circumstances, whether you like it or understand it or not, you will need, and be best served by, a traditional full-representation lawyer as describe above with a high retainer fee and eventually the billable hour treadmill. That may not be a welcome recommendation, but we assure you that it is a good one.
PLEASE NOTE: All 1-800-DIVORCE law firms continent-wide are individually owned and operated. Because of the reasons stated above, 1-800-DIVORCE takes a completely neutral approach to whether a local divorce lawyer offers free consultations or not. We are much more interested in whether that local divorce lawyer offers low flat-fee unbundled packages in uncontested divorce because they are more beneficial to you, the divorce consumer.
Your local 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer may offer a free consultation or may not. Ask them if a free consultation is offered under the facts of your case, but do not be surprised or dismayed if they do not make that offer. That may not be a bad thing at all. Be sure to ask also about low flat-fee unbundled services for uncontested divorce.
Oh yeah. And You’ll NEVER Forget Your Divorce Lawyer’s Phone Number, Whether They Offer Free Consultation or NOT!