Even lawyers understand, hiring a lawyer can be intimidating. Many people fear that having a lawyer involved will be expensive. In today’s age we often turn to the internet to see if we can just do it ourselves. After doing online research there is often the temptation to turn to providers that offer a sort of in between option, they provide apps to help you fill out the forms. Since you are not hiring a lawyer in theory it is a cheaper option. Just like Web MD cannot replace your doctor and Turbo Tax cannot replace a good accountant, there are certain times when hiring an attorney is your best option.
I cannot count the number of times I have told people they do not need to hire an attorney. I wholeheartedly believe that trying to sell someone on hiring an attorney when they do not need one will only result in headaches for both the attorney and the client. Here is a rundown of some popular legal apps and some better options to save you some money, time, or both.
For an uncontested divorce LegalZoom will charge you $500 plus the filing fees charged by the clerk of court. Uncontested means you and your spouse agree on everything, you know where they live, and they are willing to sign off on an agreed upon set of documents. If your divorce becomes contested, you will be at the end of the road with LegalZoom. At that point, you can sign up for their version of a referral service, which bills you each month unless you cancel timely.
Better option: Most courthouses have legal information centers. These centers have staff and volunteers who can assist in filling out the paperwork, for free. You and your spouse can go down to the courthouse, fill out the paperwork and file it.
As far as lawyer referrals go the Florida Bar has a lawyer referral service, and some counties have bar associations that have referral services locally. These referral services are a great option because they charge only a one-time fee or no fee depending on your finances.
OnlineDivorce.com charges $139 to initiate the form filling process plus filing fees for an uncontested divorce. The total cost is not given until you are in the process of filing out their questionnaire and depends on the specifics of your case. Again, uncontested means you and your spouse agree on everything and they are willing to sign the paperwork that is drafted. Any change to that status will result in additional fees, and no attorney to attend court hearings or answer legal questions.
Better option: The legal information centers previously mention would be a great option for uncontested divorces. You can also call around to local attorneys and ask what they charge for a simplified dissolution of marriage, which is the document generally filed when the divorce is uncontested. If you know you are going to have some questions and want to make sure you can ask an attorney, and not a customer service representative, hire an attorney.
This site makes it seem as though they have invented a new concept. They explain that they offer lower cost legal services to you by having an attorney only do certain work. In family law cases this can be done by having an attorney file a notice of limited appearance.
Better option: If you are interested in this type of representation call around. Most family lawyers offer free consultations. When scheduling the consult make sure to say that you are interested in limited representation. The advantage of doing it this way is being able to build an attorney client relationship. If you like the work the attorney is doing and want them to handle additional parts of you case it is easier to do so when you have a one-on-one attorney-client relationship, rather than one that involves a third-party app.
For another person’s take on getting divorced using an online app check out this article from Forbes.