What is an "uncontested divorce" in the Rhode Island Family Court System? I keep calling attorneys to ask for the total cost of a basic uncontested divorce in Rhode Island and I keep getting asked by the lawyers I call what do I mean by a basic uncontested divorce. Shouldn't they know what it is?
Good question. Here's the problem. If you are calling for the price for one then shouldn't YOU know what it is you're asking for a price for?
I'm not being sarcastic, talking down to you, or belittling you in any way.
The truth is that you have an excellent question. Here's the predictament most lawyers will have with your question. If the lawyer doesn't have a set fee for what the lawyer refers to as an uncontested divorce then how can he or she give you a quote? The answer. The lawyer can't.
It might surprise you that most lawyers do not have a set flat fee price for an uncontested divorce because your idea of what an uncontested divorce is versus what it may take to accomplish an uncontested divorce from beginning to end. If you think an uncontested divorce involves one set of things and the lawyer thinks it involves a different set of things then how can the lawyer give you a price for something that is in your mind that he or she doesn't know.
Consider this Example:
John wants to divorce his wife Margaret. John calls to get a quote from Attorney Snittle. John tells the attorney that he and Margaret have agreed to everything and will put it in writing. They both just want it done as quickly as possible and need an attorney to take them through the process. John asks Attorney Snittle for her charge for this basic uncontested divorce. Let's imagine that Attorney Snittle actually tells him that it should only cost him $1,000.
John comes in with $1,000 and retains Attorney Snittle's services. Attorney Snittle is clear that she charges $200 per hour against the $1,000 but if it is as he said then the estimate should be close.
Here's what happens though. John's wife Margaret evades service of the divorce papers and Attorney Snittle has to spend extra time tracking Margaret down. She also has to spend more time dealing with the constable to get Margaret served. Attorney Snittle asks John to have him and his wife put down in writing and signed before a Notary Public the settlement agreement John and Margaret made and had signed. John says there isn't one. John expected Attorney Snittle to draw it up for both of them and take care of the signing formalities. Attorney Snittle believed based upon John's representations that John and Margaret had that covered. Now John asks Attorney Snittle to draw up an agreement for him and his wife. Attorney Snittle now has to interview John regarding every aspect of their assets, debts, children, etc... in order to prepare the agreement because she has to be able to give John proper legal advice. Attorney Snittle also needs the information to prepare the divorce agreement.
Eventually the divorce is completed amicably. However, Attorney Snittle reasonably gave a price of $1,000 but it was based on incomplete information. John gets billed for $1,625.00 based on the Attorney's hourly rate agreement. John claims he is being swindled because he was quoted $1,000 for a basic uncontested divorce and now he is being over charged.
Yet Attorney Snittle was substantially misinformed or was not thoroughly informed by John. John just wanted the fast quote and that's what he got but his case was not a basic uncontested divorce to Attorney Snittle. Why? Because in Attorney Snittle's estimation a basic uncontested divorce does not include a spouse evading service of process. It also doesn't involve the attorney drawing up the agreement between the parties when she is lead to believe that the parties have already completed their divorce settlement agreement in writing, or that they will put their divorce settlement agreement in writing on their own without additional time by the attorney. Attorney Snittle provided a quote based on incomplete information and Attorney Snittle was required to do more work because of John and his wife, not because Attorney Snittle is dishonest.
So what did John think? Did he think a basic uncontested Rhode Island divorce includes taking care of service of process no matter how difficult it is or how much time it takes on the attorney's part to get it accomplished? It sounds like he did. Yet Attorney Snittle never said anything like that.
What else did John think? Did he think that the attorney always prepares the divorce settlement agreement in a basic uncontested divorce? It certainly seems like that, doesn't it! Attorney Snittle didn't promise that and was told by John that they agreed on everything and they'd even put it in writing.
See the trouble that can occur if the person asking is not on the exact same page as the lawyer.
The fact is that there is no true definition for a basic uncontested Rhode Island divorce because every couple is different, every case is different, every attorney may have different understandings of it, and neither John nor Attorney Snittle can predict what the other spouse is going to do or not do.
I could give you 3 to 5 different definitions that different lawyers have for their understanding what an uncontested divorce consists of in Rhode Island and they would all be different and have all different estimates.
In this case John believes he was cheated and Attorney Snittle probably believes that John is being unrealistic because he knows the extra work that she had to put into his case. She may have been able to resolve it amicably, but issues that were not within her quote caused more time to be required and she did the work for that time and still got the case resolved amicably.
An uncontested divorce can be one that is understood by everyone as a case being filed by one spouse and not being opposed by the other spouse. However, the amount of services that it takes to get that unopposed divorce resolved is rarely the same each time. Unless the Attorney knows the whole story and the prospective client and the attorney are on the same page about what is and what is not included in the entire divorce proceeding or quote given then the quote is worthless.
Therefore, if this is your method of shopping around for a lawyer to handle your uncontested divorce in Rhode Island Family Court, you need to consider quite a bit more factors and reconsider the manner in which you search for the lawyer.
My Best to All of You Going before the Rhode Island Family Court,
I am Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall, and
I am the original Rhode Island Divorce Coach.
Do yourself a favor? Give me a quick call and set up an affordable coaching and legal advice session for only $145 for an hour. Get the information you need as well as answers to your worrisome questions so you can make the important informed decisions you need to make so you can good decisions.
Isn't your life, and your peace of mind in a divorce worth $145 to get the facts and know your options? If not, why call an attorney at all?
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