In an uncontested divorce or legal separation, you and your spouse negotiate and resolve divorce matters between yourselves rather than have the court make decisions for you. The terms of your settlement are memorialized in a divorce or separation agreement, which is legally binding. Among the benefits of settlement is that it can save you significant time and money in a divorce. Furthermore, you have the flexibility to decide how to address the many issues involved in a divorce. That includes the potential to share the payment of legal fees.
Each spouse in the divorce should have an attorney even if the divorce is uncontested. During negotiations, both attorneys are doing relatively equal amounts of work representing their clients. However, once an agreement has been reached in principle, one side will take responsibility for drafting the settlement or separation agreement and preparing the related paperwork for the court. This work can take a significant amount of billable time. The other side meanwhile only incurs legal fees for the time needed to review and comment on what the drafting attorney created. If there is a great deal of discussion over the language of the agreement, the legal fees on each side may equalize to some extent. However, if most of the agreement is accepted as is, one side ends up paying a disproportionate share of the costs of preparation.
The solution to this is for the parties to agree to combine their legal fees and share them. In this way, the time spent on both sides negotiating, drafting and reviewing the agreement is on equal footing. In many cases, costs will be shared equally, but where there is a disparity in income between the parties, they may agree to a different apportionment.
It is important to be aware of details like this because legal fees can add up and eat into what a spouse believes he or she will receive in the settlement. Both parties are benefiting from the settlement process and should share the costs of legal fees fairly.
If you are considering an uncontested divorce or separation, it is just as important to have a skilled attorney representing your best interests as it would be in a litigated divorce action. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you achieve the best results in your divorce case.