When searching for a divorce attorney I find that many of the calls I receive have the caller telling me something like this,
I have an uncontested divorce. My wife and I have agreed on everything so there should be very little you have to do. How much do you charge for that?
Regrettably it isn't that easy. Usually the caller is trying to simply shop for the lowest price possible using the telephone rather than making an appointment. All in all it's far from the best way to shop for a divorce lawyer regardless of whether you think you have an agreement or not.
The problem? Most people misunderstand what an uncontested divorce is.
Let me clarify for those who may not have a clear understanding of what it is. When you file for divorce the court gives you a Nominal Date that is about 6 to 8 weeks away from your filing date. This is your hearing date for an uncontested hearing.
Now, if you call an attorney and tell him or her that you have an uncontested matter and that everything is agreed upon then here is what you are telling the attorney,
1. You and your spouse have agreed upon absolutely everything in your divorce.
2. You don't need legal advice from the attorney regarding your agreement with your spouse because your agreement is what makes it uncontested and if you receive legal advice and change your mind about one or more subjects in your agreement, then your case is no longer contested.
3. You have, in most cases, reduced your agreement to writing, had it formally executed and used the correct legal terminology so that the court will accept the agreement and you have accomplished as spouses what you planned to agree upon.
4. Your agreement with your spouse contains everything that the law requires or your divorce attorney is willing to fill in the gaps on the record of the court.
5. You are able to complete all of this in a timely fashion so you can have the hearing by the Nominal Date.
Now, this is what is known as an uncontested divorce because both parties are in agreement and ready to proceed by the Nominal Date. That does not mean that a matter cannot become "Nominal" at a later date.
For instance, what if it takes you 12 weeks to reach an agreement and you need the help of an attorney to formulate your agreement. Your divorce can still become nominal (i.e. agreed upon) and proceed before a judge. However, it was not uncontested in the true sense of the word because there were issues that needed to be resolved, in other words, one of the spouses was not in agreement either with the terms of the settlement or the wording of it. Thus, it because a nominal hearing by agreement after being contested for one reason or another.
In my experience, at least 8 out of 10 callers will say they have an uncontested divorce and want me to put a price on it. In truth about 1 out of 20 callers has the makings of a truly uncontested divorce and the attorney still can't be certain of this until he meets with the client. Even after meeting with the client the attorney has only heard one side of the story, since the client cannot represent two opposing parties in a divorce. Therefore, the Rhode Island Divorce lawyer can't be certain if the other party considers the matter uncontested until the proceeding commences.
Ultimately reliance on any quote you are given for an uncontested divorce over the telephone is most likely misplaced. Attorneys usually bill for the amount of time they spend on a case. Since an attorney cannot predict what is going to happen in your case, how many faxes you may send, how many times you may call, etc. . . then how is the attorney to know how much your divorce will cost. In an effort to get a quick telephone quote from an attorney you could inadvertently fail to provide details that would affect the amount of time it takes or the expense.
Rule of Thumb? Understand what an uncontested divorce truly is. Realize that a good Rhode Island divorce attorney will not generally give you a quote over the telephone. Set up a consultation with several divorce attorneys to find the one best suited to you.
NOTE: The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, DO NOT create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where you have your legal issue. This site is presented for the convenience of the internet public.
* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law and has no procedure for recognition of specialty in any area of law.