Unbundled uncoupling: Keeping divorce costs low

Keeping the cost of a divorce under control is usually a big concern for many people. Opting for unbundled legal services may be a convenient way to lower your legal costs during a divorce without lowering the quality of service that you receive.

Unbundling is a form of limited scope legal services that has become particularly popular in domestic court. It's gradually gained the support of not only the American Bar Association but most state bar associations as well. Instead of the client handing everything over for the attorney to handle, the client and attorney break down the tasks involved in a case and agree on exactly what parts the attorney will do.

The unbundling concept is a way to resolve the problems that many people have affording legal services—especially when money may already be tight as you're trying to start over. All too often, people end up trying to muddle their way through court on a pro se basis or they simply put off legal services altogether because they can't afford it. That means people sometimes stay married long after they have separated or they will settle into an informal arrangement regarding child custody that could leave everyone vulnerable in a crisis.

Retaining the unbundled services of an attorney means several different things:

— You can avoid having to pay a large retainer fee at once in order to secure an attorney's services throughout the divorce or other domestic issue

— There's no guesswork about what sort of fees you're incurring along the way, since you pay a flat fee for the services instead of an hourly fee

— You can hire an attorney to draft a single document or pleading for the court if you're uncomfortable doing so

— You can hire an attorney to appear as your representative during court hearings involving custody, support or property division even if you filed the pleading on your own

— If you and your divorcing spouse are in agreement over your property division and other matters, you could hire an attorney simply to review the settlement agreement for legality issues and other obvious problems

How do you know if unbundled legal services are right for you? Start with a consultation with your attorney to discuss the details of your case. If your divorce case is too complex to benefit from unbundling, your attorney will be candid with you and let you know your options.

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