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When mar­riages break down, it often starts off as some­thing small, and it just slow­ly builds over time. May­be you noticed you and your spouse just always seem to find some­thing new to fight about. May­be you real­ized the real rea­son you’ve been stay­ing late at work is so that you don’t have to go home. May­be you’re just tired of being up all night wor­ry­ing because you’re too wound up to sleep. Or may­be you can’t stand that pit in your stom­ach you feel every time you have to lie to a friend or fam­i­ly mem­ber about how your fam­i­ly is doing.

May­be it’s time to admit it’s over. Sure, you and your spouse still love each oth­er. You can still talk to each oth­er, and make it through the day. But the spark is gone. And it’s not com­ing back. But you don’t know the path ahead. What do you do now? What hap­pens next? Who can you turn to and ask?

Choos­ing the right attor­ney for your divorce case is extreme­ly impor­tant. A divorce case will touch on every aspect of your life. It’s crit­i­cal that you pick your attor­ney wise­ly, because they are the per­son you will trust to help you through a very dif­fi­cult time. There are a num­ber of things to con­sid­er when decid­ing on an attor­ney to hire for your divorce. Before con­sid­er­ing those things, how­ev­er, it’s impor­tant to know what typ­i­cal divorce looks like.

A Typical Divorce

Most divorce cas­es begin in rough­ly the same way: A poten­tial client sits down with an attor­ney and tells them the sto­ry of what’s hap­pened and why they’re in the room. The attor­ney will ask a cou­ple of ques­tions, and may­be ask a few more depend­ing on whether any­thing addi­tion­al comes up. If the attor­ney decides to take the case, the con­ver­sa­tion shifts, and fees are dis­cussed. All too often, that con­ver­sa­tion begins and ends with an attor­ney request­ing a retain­er. The client will give an amount of mon­ey to the attor­ney, who will deposit the mon­ey in the attorney’s trust account. As the attor­ney works on the client’s divorce, the attor­ney will bill the client an hourly rate for the work the attor­ney and his staff do. The attor­ney will pay those invoic­es or client bills with the mon­ey the client deposit­ed with the attor­ney. At the end of the divorce, the attor­ney will  either return any remain­ing mon­ey to the client, or, as is more like­ly, will call the client and inform them that the client has to pay more mon­ey to the attor­ney.

Some cas­es require retain­ers and hourly billing. With excep­tion­al­ly large cas­es, or cas­es that could poten­tial­ly become large, hourly billing again­st a retain­er may ensure an attor­ney or a firm is fair­ly com­pen­sat­ed for their work.

Not every case is a large case, and not every case requires a retain­er and hourly billing. Many of the com­mon com­plaints about law firms and attor­neys stem from hourly billing. Con­sid­er this: You hire an attor­ney to rep­re­sent you in your divorce. The attor­ney begins prepar­ing divorce paper­work and files it with the court. It takes the attor­ney a bit longer than ini­tial­ly expect­ed because your case had a few small wrin­kles that came up. Your bill is a bit high­er than you expect­ed, but your attor­ney assured you it was impor­tant, and, real­ly, what are you going to do accept their word for it?

Next, the attor­ney wants to serve your spouse with papers. May­be you didn’t tell your spouse about the divorce ahead of time, and the divorce papers come as a big shock to your spouse. May­be you did tell your spouse ahead of time, but your spouse didn’t real­ly under­stand what being served with papers would mean. May­be your spouse sim­ply decid­ed it would be best to hire their own attor­ney. So your spouse has an attor­ney who says they have just a cou­ple of items they want to clear up to pre­serve your spouse’s rights. You all meet, the attor­neys dis­agree, and decide to set every­thing for a hear­ing. After the meet­ing, you think that may­be there’s an easy solu­tion to the dis­agree­ment, and you send an email to your attor­ney about your thoughts. Your attor­ney responds to your email. A few days lat­er, you get a bill in the mail from your attor­ney. That brief email cost you one hun­dred dol­lars. You make a men­tal note: “Don’t con­tact attor­ney again.”

Why pay the cost for your attor­ney to respond to emails, when you can just tell them every­thing they need to know at one of the sched­uled meet­ings? One’s com­ing up in a cou­ple weeks, to pre­pare for the hear­ing. In the mean­time, though, your attor­ney keeps work­ing. When the day of the hear­ing final­ly comes, you wait at court for an hour or two before your case is called. The attor­neys stand and speak with a judge for may­be fif­teen min­utes. Both sides make a brief argu­ment, and the judge asks if the par­ties have attempt­ed to come to an agree­ment. The attor­neys say it can’t be rec­on­ciled, and the judge sets the mat­ter for tri­al.

A few months lat­er, you get to repeat the process all over again. The tri­al takes three days–days you have to take off from work. In the mean­time, you’ve had three or four meet­ings with your attor­ney to pre­pare for it. You man­age to get through the tri­al. Final­ly, your attor­ney sends you the paper­work that will fin­ish your divorce. Your attor­ney also sends you your bill, where you dis­cov­er you went from a sim­ple, straight-for­ward case that was most­ly agreed to between you and your spouse, to owing your attor­ney $10,000. And your spouse has a sim­i­lar bill.

This sort of sto­ry isn’t unheard of. It’s not even unlike­ly. All of the attorney’s work can be account­ed for: There is time spent hours research­ing and draft­ing a memo here, a half-day in court there, and there was that one meet­ing with oppos­ing coun­sel your attor­ney had to pre­pare for. The attor­ney was rep­re­sent­ing you and your case to the best of their abil­i­ty. If that rep­re­sen­ta­tion turns out to cost more than you’re com­fort­able with, well, you should have under­stood what effec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion was going to cost you at the begin­ning of the case.

What usu­al­ly goes unsaid is that in the vast major­i­ty of divorce cas­es, all of the addi­tion­al work an attor­ney might end up per­form­ing might not be com­plete­ly unnec­es­sary. All too often, the return on a “vic­to­ry” in a divorce case sim­ply isn’t greater than the cost it takes to secure it. With a wider view of the case, it would have been clear that the bat­tle just wasn’t worth fight­ing. If the attor­neys had approached each oth­er with a clear under­stand­ing about what the clients’ want­ed, there would have been no lit­i­ga­tion. And if your spouse hadn’t been sur­prised, or felt hurt, or inse­cure, or what­ev­er it was with the divorce paper­work, and then retained coun­sel, the whole thing could have been quick­ly and eas­i­ly, with one attor­ney cre­at­ing the agree­ments you and your spouse worked out. But it didn’t go that way, and now it’s months lat­er and there’s bare­ly any val­ue left in the mar­i­tal prop­er­ty to divide.

The Future of Divorce

At Crid­er Law Group, we under­stand that not every divorce needs lit­i­ga­tion. We know that many peo­ple going through a divorce real­ly need under­stand­ing, some time, some coach­ing, and some guid­ance. For peo­ple who share this view, we provide our ser­vices in plan­ning and prepar­ing an uncon­test­ed divorce, from start to fin­ish.

We work on a flat-fee basis for peo­ple with an agreed or uncon­test­ed divorce for a very sim­ple rea­son: This is your case. We’re going to keep it about you. With a flat fee, there can’t be any con­cerns about cost. Do you need a meet­ing every week for the next mon­th? Then that’s part of the ser­vice. Do you have an email you didn’t real­ize you need­ed to send to us until three in the morn­ing? That’s cov­ered, too. So are phone calls when­ev­er you want, or access to con­stant­ly-updat­ed forms and doc­u­ments. Your case, and your attor­ney, are at your fin­ger­tips, because it’s your case. Because you pay only a flat fee, we don’t have to wor­ry about any­thing oth­er than pro­vid­ing you the best pos­si­ble ser­vice, and tai­lor­ing that ser­vice to your case, and your needs.

Not every divorce needs lit­i­ga­tion. In fact, for most peo­ple and for most cas­es, it’s com­plete­ly unnec­es­sary. What most peo­ple real­ly need, is some guid­ance, a help­ing hand nav­i­gat­ing the court sys­tem, and a safe place to talk about options and the future.

Our Process

A divorce can’t hap­pen overnight, as much as we might wish oth­er­wise. There are sev­er­al wait­ing peri­ods built into every divorce by state law, and they can­not be avoid­ed.

What we’ve done is sub­stan­tial­ly stream­line our agreed or uncon­test­ed divorce process, so that much of the work is done before the time required by state law, so that every­thing pro­gress­es quick­ly and smooth­ly.  

We divide our the process into three main steps:

1. The Kick-Off Meeting

The kick-off meet­ing usu­al­ly occurs after you’ve met with us and decid­ed that we’re a good fit to rep­re­sent you in your divorce. Dur­ing the kick-off meet­ing, we meet with you and your spouse and col­lect the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion to begin prepar­ing your divorce doc­u­ments.

You’ll have some home­work to do before the kick-off meet­ing: In Cal­i­for­nia, even in an uncon­test­ed divorce, both par­ties must exchange cer­tain finan­cial infor­ma­tion, includ­ing account state­ments show­ing the val­ue of your prop­er­ty. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is no short­cut here. For most peo­ple, find­ing those records will take some leg­work, and it has to be done. But you’ll be ahead of the game because we are here to guide you, tell you exact­ly what you need, and answer any ques­tions you may have.

After we pre­pare the ini­tial divorce paper­work and file it with the Court, we’ll ensure both par­ties are served with all nec­es­sary doc­u­ments.

2. The Marriage Settlement Agreement

The next step is to begin for­mal­iz­ing the terms of the divorce. Often, spous­es have a gen­er­al under­stand­ing of how they want to resolve their divorce, and what agree­ments they rae will­ing to make, but they usu­al­ly haven’t ful­ly con­sid­er all of the speci­fic details. A Mar­riage Set­tle­ment Agree­ment, or MSA, should be as detailed as pos­si­ble, because that is the doc­u­ment that the judge refers to when enter­ing the final judg­ment.

3. The Final Judgment

After the terms of the Mar­riage Set­tle­ment Agree­ment have been final­ized and you and your spouse have signed it, the last step in your con­test­ed divorce is to pre­pare the final judg­ment doc­u­ments for court. The­se doc­u­ments will be sub­mit­ted and reviewed by the court. The court’s review can take some time. The court will check the final doc­u­ments and the court’s entire case file to make sure that every­thing is in order. It is only after the court clerk reviews the final judg­ment and the court’s entire case file that the clerk will sub­mit the doc­u­ments to a judge for sig­na­ture. Typ­i­cal­ly, the review process can take some­where between four and eight weeks, depend­ing on the coun­ty.

The Benefits

Crid­er Law Group is com­mit­ted to the idea that each divorce case is unique, and so it’s cru­cial to approach each case as flex­i­bly as pos­si­ble. After all, it’s your divorce. We dis­cuss our flat fee agree­ments open­ly at the begin­ning of each and every case so that there are no hid­den charges, and no sur­pris­es. There will be no hid­den costs passed on to you. Once we’re hired, our only inter­est is the best pos­si­ble res­o­lu­tion for you.

We will pre­pare and file all nec­es­sary doc­u­ments (except for an order divid­ing cer­tain retire­ment accounts, which may be done for an addi­tion­al charge), includ­ing the court doc­u­ments and the Mar­riage Set­tle­ment Agree­ment, per­form any nec­es­sary legal research, and we will attempt to nego­ti­ate a set­tle­ment between you and your spouse. You can call, email, or meet with us as often as nec­es­sary at no addi­tion­al expense, and you will have access to an online client por­tal con­tain­ing your entire case file. Best of all, you’ll have a team of trained and expe­ri­enced peo­ple work­ing to com­plete your case in as has­sle-free and effec­tive man­ner.

Not every per­son has a divorce case that is appro­pri­ate for our uncon­test­ed divorce ser­vice. But in the major­i­ty of sit­u­a­tions, lit­i­ga­tion con­sumes far more ben­e­fit than it pro­vides. If you’re con­sid­er­ing a divorce, and think that  you and your spouse might be inter­est­ed in an agreed and uncon­test­ed divorce, please con­tact us to dis­cuss your options.