Critical Divorce Questions
Do I need an Attorney if it's an "amicable" Divorce?
Yes. There are complex issues involved in almost every divorce case. This is particularly true with financial issues, but equally so with Custody, Parenting time, separate property disputes, taxes, and many many other issues. If one party is pushing hard to avoid “lawyers” and “attorney fees” it is that party that stands to gain the most when dealing with an unrepresented party. Power & control issues exist in nearly every marriage, and this conflict becomes paramount in a failed marriage. Consulting with an attorney does not mean engaging the lawyer for the entire case. Michigan now has a procedure for Summary Proceedings where both sides agree on all issues prior to the Divorce filing.
Why are divorces so expensive?
Over the years, State of Michigan filing fees and court costs have increased 1000%. Mandatory forms associated with a Divorce case have increased 10x over. Mandatory Friend of the Court involvement, and Court Ordered Mediation in almost every divorce case has a major impact on the cost of a divorce case. Every time a new “form” is mandated by the Courts, the cost of compliance is passed onto the client. Decades ago the cost of gasoline, food, housing, and every other necessity were a fraction of today’s costs. An attorneys costs for rent, computers, software, copiers, and staff have increased exponentially. However, the “good news” is that a commitment by both parties to work toward a common resolution of contested issues can reduces divorce fees 50% or more. Likewise, a party (or an attorney) committed to contesting every issue, large or small, can make divorce costs much, much more expensive than necessary.
Does it matter if the other Lawyer is "any good" ?
Every experienced family law attorney absolutely prefers dealing with an attorney who is “good”. Experienced and skilled counsel will know the Judge and Referee assigned to the case, as well as know opposing counsel. Confident and skilled lawyers can focus upon the “big picture” early on in the case, and shape the case toward an ultimate win-win resolution which both parties can embrace. Attorneys who are not skilled and experienced in family law can cause a contested case to cost 2x, or 3x, or more to finally resolve. A lower hourly rate charged by a lawyer does not necessarily result is a cheaper divorce case. Likewise, a higher hourly rate charged by an experienced attorney can save client over the long run by not getting distracted by litigating unproductive issues.
I just received a letter from a lawyer whom I never heard of, telling me a Divorce case has been filed against me; what does this mean?
Unfortunately you have just been victimized by “trolling” which is the practice of bottom-feeding, greedy attorneys searching Court filings, and making direct solicitations to prospective clients; many times trolling letters are accompanied by the inference that something bad will happen if they don’t immediately hire an attorney. Competent and ethical family law specialists condemn trolling. Clients have a mandated 21 days to consult with and retain the attorney of their choice. Frequently, additional time to respond can be agreed upon on an amicable basis.
Will my attorney represent me until the case concludes?
Different attorneys have different business models. Some attorneys specifically require payment of monthly invoices like a toll booth or a taxi cab, and if bills are not timely paid, certain attorneys will file a Motion To Withdraw. However, this is particularly problematic for the “non-moneyed” spouse, who does not control the finances or the assets. An attorney can tell in the initial client interview if the assets in a case are sufficient to cover ultimate anticipated fees. This attorney believes that filing a Motion To Withdraw because of unpaid fees in the middle of a case is poor practice, and ultimately this is against client’s best interests; the best interests of client are always paramount.