Divorce

DIVORCE

Divorces are rarely easy, but a divorce doesn’t have to be expensive. If your divorce is uncontested and all of the issues agreed upon, we charge a reasonable flat fee plus filing fees. We do not charge clients an hourly rate and layout a breakdown of your retainer at your consultation to assure there are no hidden fees. In many cases, the divorce can be done in 8 to 10 weeks.

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AN “UNCONTESTED” DIVORCE

Oftentimes, clients will seek an attorney to represent them in an “Uncontested” or “Agreed Upon” divorce. An uncontested/agreed divorce may be an option if you and your spouse are already in agreement to all aspects of your divorce. This includes child custody and support, property division and your spouse’s willingness to cooperate with your attorney as necessary. If you spouse doesn’t have an attorney, Mr. Buitron can speak with him or her and answer their questions about the process and help with the negotiations.

If children are involved uncontested divorces are often much easier on them than a long drawn out divorce where the prolonged stress of the process can become difficult to hide by stressed out and emotionally distraught parents. What’s more, unfortunately, children often become unwitting pawns in their parent’s divorces, carrying messages back and forth and getting involved in aspects of their parent’s divorces that they would be better off being unaware of.

If, after your consultation, Mr. Buitron believes that there is a potential to complete your divorce agreeably and without conflict, he may offer you the opportunity to retain his services under a limited scope for a flat rate rather than a retainer charged against an hourly fee.

This scope includes: Drafting and filing an Original Petition for Divorce, drafting and filing a Waiver of Service, drafting a Final Decree of Divorce and appearing with the client to finalize the divorce decree in a brief court appearance.

This process is faster and usually far less expensive than a standard divorce, but sometimes after the divorce process begins, a divorce that started with all matters agreed upon will become contested.

WHEN IS A DIVORCE NO LONGER “UNCONTESTED”?

A divorce may become contested if your spouse refuses to complete and return the waiver of service or final decree in a timely manner, hires an attorney, no longer agrees to one or more of the terms involved in your divorce or otherwise complicates the process.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN “UNCONTESTED” DIVORCE BECOMES “CONTESTED”?

If Mr. Buitron is retained to represent you for an uncontested divorce but your divorce becomes contested for any reason, including but not limited to those listed above, he can still represent you, but the case will convert to an hourly rate and a new retainer agreement will have to be signed.

WHAT CAN A CLIENT DO TO KEEP A DIVORCE “UNCONTESTED”?

With the emotion that accompanies a divorce, it is often impossible to prevent disagreement, but abiding by the local standard orders, avoiding unnecessary conflict and encouraging your spouse to contact your attorney with any questions or concerns may help preserve your “uncontested” status.

CONTESTED DIVORCE

If there are issues in your divorce that are contested or unsettled, such as custody of children or the distribution of property or debts then Mr. Buitron charges a retainer and works at his usual hourly rate. In most divorce cases the process begins with the drafting of the original petition – this is the actual suit for divorce. The original petition is filed by the Petitioner’s attorney with the County Clerk and then the Respondent is served either by certified mail or in person by a process server. Thereafter, in most cases, the Respondent has to file an Answer no later than the Monday following the 20th day after he or she was served.

At this point, depending on the circumstances there may be a temporary orders hearing to set court orders in place while the divorce is pending. Usually included in a temporary order are things like which party will live in the marital residence while the divorce process is going on, child support payments and who will pay what bills during the pendency of the divorce. There may be other orders included, again, depending on the specific circumstances, but you get the idea.

After an Answer is filed the attorneys will usually exchange what is called an Inventory and Appraisements; these are exhaustive documents outlining each party’s finances. Specifically, all of their respective financial accounts and property, of any kind, and all of their debts along with supporting documentation. This information is very helpful so that the attorneys have an accurate understanding of what property and debts are part of the martial estate and thus subject to a split in the divorce and what property may be claimed by the parties as separate property. Separate property is property owned by one party or the other that is not part of the marital estate and subject to a split in the divorce. Separate property is usually property that was owned prior to the marriage or property one spouse or the other received as an inheritance or gift. Sometimes whether or not property is separate or not is easy to figure out, but sometimes certain variables may cloud the issue and may need to be decided by a judge.

In some cases, the attorneys may engage in deeper discovery beyond an Inventory and Appraisements that include, among other things, Notices to Produce and Interrogatories (specific questions).

At some point after the exchange of Inventory and Appraisements and any additional discovery, the parties may exchange formal settlement proposals. The settlement proposals may go back and forth a few times. If settlement cannot be reached by this process mediation is usually the next step. In my experience most cases settle at mediation. I typically use one of three or four local mediators who are very experienced and very good at their jobs of working with clients and their attorneys to facilitate compromise and settlement. If mediation works out then the parties and their lawyers sign what’s called a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) that lays out the specific terms of the divorce settlement. Once signed the MSA is irrevocable and after a brief hearing in front of a judge by at least one of the parties and their lawyer, the divorce is final. A final typed Decree of Divorce will be submitted for a judge’s signature at a later time and the original filed with the County Clerk’s Office.

If mediation is unsuccessful, then a trial in front of a judge and/or jury is the final step. At a trial the court will settle either those particular issues that the parties were unable to resolve at mediation or the entire matter. In my view either a negotiated settlement or mediated settlement is far preferable whenever possible to a trial. Mediations tend to be far less expensive in terms of legal fees and more importantly, an MSA is the result of thoughtful discussion, negotiation and compromise as opposed to a trial where the arbitrary decision of a judge will determine the result.

Mr. Buitron is highly experienced at both contested and uncontested divorce cases and works very hard on behalf of his clients to achieve the best results possible. All initial consultations are free, and all cases are handled by Mr. Buitron personally.

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