The issue resolution and legal information needed to present an uncontested case to the court may be done during the mediation process. Although I am an attorney, as a mediator I am neutral. I would not be representing either one of you or both of you as an attorney.
Divorce mediation is a process where two individuals identify their individual goals, prioritize them, and work with a mediator so that each party can get enough of what they need to reach an agreement on all the issues.
Plan on a minimum two hour session. At the rate of $180 per hour the meeting would cost $360. When both of you are ready to move forward you may schedule the initial 2 hour mediation session and avoid going through the receptionist.
In some cases one session is enough to address and resolve all the issues. If not, then at a minimum, the first session will leave both of you more focused on how to proceed as well as having a to do list to prepare for the next session. That way you can work through the issues at your pace instead of being at the mercy of the court’s timeline. It also gives you opportunities to gather documents, investigate facts and consult with attorneys and other experts.
If the two of you reach an agreement on all the terms, then for a flat rate (in addition to the hourly rate for the mediation sessions) I will prepare all the documents that are needed for you to initiate an uncontested divorce within the court system. The flat rate is $1800.
In some situations people have discussed all the issues between themselves, disclosed all their finances, and reached agreements on all the issues. However they do not want to use a DIY kit because of the time, the learning curve, and the risk of making errors. In that situation I can represent one of the parties by preparing and filing an uncontested case.
An uncontested case is one in which both parties cooperate by voluntarily signing settlement documents before the divorce is filed. Although I can only represent one party, I can prepare all the documents needed for both parties to execute. The flat fee for an uncontested matter is $2,500.
Give me the details of your agreement. I will draft all the necessary documents. When you approve of the drafts we will submit them to your spouse for his/her consideration.
Your spouse will not be served. There will be no deadline within which he/she has to sign the documents. The process relies on mutual cooperation.
When the documents are signed by both of you and returned to my office, I will file them with the court. About five weeks after the documents are filed with the court the judge will sign the final judgment granting the divorce.
If there is some issue that cannot be resolved, then you need to file the divorce without an agreement and use the court process to resolve the conflict. That may include using mediation instead of going to trial.
Starting with a contested petition is typically needed when one person wants the divorce, and the other does not or is in denial. A contested court process can help move the divorce forward by forcing the other party to participate, to become realistic and hopefully to settle.
Even though a divorce petition is filed without an agreement, it does not mean the case will end in a trial. Most cases are settled after financial and other disclosures are exchanged and the parties attend mediation, with each party being represented.
The mediator will not make decisions for you but will serve as a neutral, impartial facilitator of the settlement process. The threat of having a judge make decisions if the case does not settle creates the incentive needed for both parties to make a good faith effort to settle at mediation.
When the case starts without an agreement I charge an hourly rate because I do not know how long it will take before both of you will sign the same document with the same terms. I charge $375 per hour with an initial retainer of $4,500 (12 hours pre-paid).
You may schedule a complimentary analysis of your matter and avoid going through the receptionist.