MORE INFO, FAQ’S AND PRICING
One of the biggest challenges of working with full-service law firms is that the lawyer and the client often do not know exactly how much a legal action is going to cost. FLIC allows the client to control expenditures while having access, at any time, to counsel throughout the process.
FLIC’s model is to help you manage your own costs in a divorce case while still providing you legal counsel to make sure your case is done correctly and so that you can keep moving forward toward resolution of your matter.
A divorce takes place in three steps, here called “filings.” You can file for divorce but the Court will not take any action on your behalf until you make a request that the court “move” through a “motion” or a Request for Orders. After you have requested orders, you will have a mediation (if children are involved) and then a hearing date. You can handle your own hearing without a lawyer if you know what to ask for. You are your own best advocate and can readily represent yourself. It just takes a little bit of advice from a lawyer – and that’s what we do for you.
After you receive orders in your case, the Court will require you or the other party to prepare Findings and Orders After Hearing (FOAH). You will bring the “minute order” from your hearing to our office (or authorize us to retrieve it for you) and we will prepare the FOAH for you. This will be the document the Judge signs and becomes your orders.
The second step in a divorce case is all financial. In order to be divorced in California, each party must provide the other party with a set of relatively complex financial documents listing out all of your assets and debts, your bank and tax information, any business ventures or property you own. This part is usually what holds most parties up and keeps them from getting divorced. We do this for you. You will work with our team to produce all of your financial documents. They will give you a checklist of documents that you need to bring in and then, working with us, we will produce all of the documents necessary for you to complete this all-important step.
Finally, the third step is either the Judgment after a court trial or a Marital Settlement Agreement that sets forth the terms of your divorce. Without a Judgment or a Marital Settlement Agreement (Called an MSA), you are not divorced and you remain liable for new debts and taxes that your ex incurs. You also cannot remarry legally. We prepare this for you by speaking with you, and if needed, your spouse or ex-spouse to get the agreements in their proper form for filing with the Court.
If you are in need of a lawyer to represent you in Court, then you would make an engagement with the lawyer to represent you. We offer full service representation through the EganLaw offices, but at FLIC, you make an agreement with us to represent yourself in Court, but come to us anytime you need documents prepared or advice. All you do is make an appointment through the online scheduling program and pay the fee in 30 minute increments. For about $600, we can get you prepared for what to say at your trial, including how to ask questions and what information your judge will think is important. We can also prepare documents for the judge to look at (called Exhibits) and teach you how to present them to the Court (and also how to object to your ex’s documents).
When you know how much it will cost upfront, you can avoid things like the large retainers that lawyers charge. In our area, $5,000-$7,500 has become the standard retainer and then that isn’t even a guarantee of cost. With FLIC, you pay for things as you go along, including time with your lawyer in our office and getting documents prepared. You always know the cost ahead of time so that you can plan and budget.
FAMILY LAW – THE THREE MAIN FILINGS
First Filing – All First Filings in a Divorce Action (FLIC pricing:$1,000).
Summons, Petition, UCCJEA, Statement of Venue (SLO), RFO/Motion, Income and Expense Declaration plus half hour with attorney = $1,000; with one hour with attorney (recommended in first meeting to address and strategize all major issues in case) = $1,200.
Second Filing – Financial Disclosures (FLIC pricing: $1,000).
Local Rule 1419 (SB) and Rules and Procedures 2.8:2 (SLO), Schedule of Assets and Debts, Declaration of Disclosure, Declaration regarding service of Declaration of Disclosure = $1,000. You cannot get divorced in California without serving the proper financial disclosures on the other party. These disclosures are the major reason why most parties cannot seem to finalize their divorce, sometimes years later. (An additional $200 half hour with attorney is recommend to review filings).
Third Filing – Preparation of Judgment or Marital Settlement Agreement – (FLIC pricing: $1,000).
You or we will pull the minute order from the court and prepare the judgment. Attorney time for reviewing the minute order and judgment is built in to the price. If you reach an agreement, you tell us the terms of the agreement and we will draft a binding Marital Settlement Agreement and Judgment for you to submit to the court.
Three filing package (FLIC pricing: $2,750)
If you sign up for all three at the outset, then we charge a $2,750 fee and you get all three filings included plus a half hour of attorney time at the beginning and a second half hour before the third filing. The $2,750 package includes the initial motion packet, the disclosures and the judgment paperwork plus one hour of attorney time. It does not include drafting orders or preparation for hearings.
But, if you ever want more attorney time, you make an appointment in the online scheduler and pay the rate of $200 for a 30-minute appointment. Many people choose to spend a couple of hours with the lawyer preparing for a trial. They do the math and figure that spending $600-800 to be taught how to put on a trial and what to expect is far less expensive than an attorney, who might charge $8,000 for the same trial.
It is not uncommon for a FLIC client to do the $2,750 Three-filing Package and also buy an additional 3-4 hours of attorney spread out over 6-9 months. If you bought the Three-filing Package for $2,750 and 5 hours of attorney time (which, by the way, is much more than you will likely need), you would spend $4,750 over 6-9 months for your complete divorce with an attorney guiding you through the process. EganLaw’s starting retainer for a divorce is $6,000 and virtually all divorces end up costing at least double that amount. You would still be saving almost 60% by doing it that way and the only big expense is the $2,750.
What is Not Included in the Three-Filing Package
The Three-Filing Package includes the three main “filings” in a divorce action: 1) the initial Petition, Summons and first motion; 2) the Financial Disclosures; and 3) the Judgment or Agreement. It also includes one hour of attorney time – usually split between the initial consultation and the meeting before preparing the Judgment.
This does not include additional actions such as Motion and Order to Show Cause drafting and filing, declarations, advice and counsel, propounding discovery, and a number of additional actions that may arise during your divorce. We set forth fees for those below. However, in a relatively amicable divorce, or one where there are only a few main issues, these three filings will get you through.
And of course, you can always talk to your lawyer at any time by making an appointment through the online portal and paying as you go.
Conferring About and Drafting Declarations (Hourly at $200 per 30 minutes – usually between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours depending on length and depth of issues).
Declarations are the way you tell your story to the Court – what you need the Judge to know about your case. This is where having an experienced litigator advising you (often drafting the declaration for you to edit) gives you a huge advantage.
Paralegals, LDAs and “notarios” cannot, by law, draft declarations for you – this is the unauthorized practice of law. Therefore, the attorney must draft the declaration so this is billed in half hour increments – usually from half an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the complexity of your case and what must be addressed in the declaration.
Your attorney will ask you to send an email and they will use your email to craft your declaration for the Court, advising you about what to say and not say in your declaration. Most declarations take the attorney about an hour – this makes sense. They could probably write a first draft of a declaration for you in 30 minutes, but it generally makes sense to give the attorney the time to write it and review it to make sure that they are helping you put your best foot forward. Only very rarely does a Declaration take longer than that – but there are cases with complex or serious issues that may take longer. Your attorney will tell you when that is, although, our experience is that you already know this intuitively (for example: if you have the other parent living in another country and your child goes back and forth; you believe there is sexual abuse or violence or substance abuse happening in the other parent’s home; you have more than two real properties located in multiple states or countries….your declaration may take a little longer to draft than one hour).
Confer with attorney ($200/30-minutes)
By appointment at any time after you have engaged the FLIC office to prepare paperwork and become a FLIC client – half hour time blocks – $200 per half hour.
Time with the lawyer can be used for a number of things:
- Advice and counsel on any issue in the case from financial to custody to property and pensions.
- Drafting a powerful declaration that makes sure the judge knows exactly what is the most important issue.
- Strategy and positioning – what makes us very successful as a family law firm is our ability to quickly strategize and position each of our clients. Jude publishes nationally on legal strategy in family law cases (from custody to support to property division). We have written on our blog about this in more detail, but in short, judges will make very quick assumptions about each party and categorize them, often for the entire case, right from the very beginning of the case. We need to position you to make sure the judge very quickly categorizes you in the way you want to be categorized. This is possibly the most important thing in a divorce. Jude has told people for years that if they have only a few thousand dollars to spend on a lawyer, spend it at the beginning of the case to make sure you are positioned correctly and in your best light to the Court. Once early decisions are made by the judge they can be VERY difficult to overcome later.
- Advising on financial issues – inheritances, separate property, community property, how to divide a pension, spousal and child support, how to be ready for child custody mediation. People routinely leaves tens of thousands and sometimes much more than that on the table because they do not know the Three Family Law Property Rules, which we will teach you.
- Trial strategy – direct and cross-examination questions in written form so all you have to do is ask them; how to get evidence entered into the record – including authentication and submission; evidentiary objections – how and when to use them (if you are in pro per against a lawyer, they will take advantage of you this way and bring all sorts of evidence that could be excluded if you know how to object to it. You must know how to respond to this.).
- Trial and evidentiary binders – we make the binders for you so that you are ready to take them into court.
- Proper courtroom etiquette and decorum.
- We can discuss literally anything about your case, including things that you did not even know about. For a few hundred dollars, isn’t it worth your peace of mind?
Fix It Services (As Quoted – Hourly)
Sometimes cases get gummed up and require a lawyer to think through how to “fix” them – this can be if for example someone moved away with the children without getting your approval, if DCSS has issued a default paternity judgment or orders, if you have been incarcerated or if there is a pending step-parent adoption or if your divorce has been pending for years and is still unresolved. Fix-it services are charged at the lawyer’s rate of $200 per 30 minutes plus staff time at $100 for 30 minutes – the lawyer usually figures out how to fix it and directs the staff on how to do it. Expect $500-$1,000 in charges to fix most problems in a case.
Research (As Quoted – Hourly)
We are experts in family law and immigration, but there are novel issues that come up in cases that require research. We have state of the art research capability and are trained to do this for you in a reasonable amount of time. This is charged at the regular rate of $200 per 30 minutes; however, we will always “bid” the research service beforehand so that you know exactly how much it is going to cost before you engage us to do it. And you always get a typed memorandum detailing the answer – and if need be, we put it in pleading format for you to submit to the court. These types of questions may include a pre-1992 pre-nuptial agreement, so called “Marvin” agreements, or a quasi-marriage (religious but not civil ceremony) or someone who was not divorced but has “remarried”, etc.
Many cases are very similar to each other, which is why FLIC can process paperwork for you with a lawyer’s advice and oversight. But some cases are just not standard at all. You will likely know if your case is one of those. However, it’s important to note that the expertise we bring to this area of law allows to confidently give you a “bid” for our services and make sure you get the right answer.
We also have a number of pre-researched, pre-prepared “Points and Authorities” documents that explain the law to the Judge on a number of important and common issues. You can purchase these from us for a few hundred dollars and, for an hourly rate, have us customize these documents for you. We can never promise that a judge will give you what you ask for, but we know you will never get it if you don’t ask. For this reason, often I will tell people, “do not spend $10,000 on lawyer’s fees trying to make an exotic claim for $20,000, but do spend $500 on that claim.” The reason? Spending 50% to maybe win $20,000 is just too much when you are playing for a chance, but spending say 5-10% for that same chance is often worth it. If you don’t win the issue, you are out a few hundred dollars. But if you do win the issue, you make $20,000.
Findings and Orders After Hearing ($300)
We will order the minute order from the court and prepare a FOAH to be submitted to the court. This will include the local rule language required before filing, serving your spouse and making sure the orders are received.
Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (As Quoted)
We charge $1,000 to draft, serve and file a basic QDRO, DFAS military retired pay division order or FERS COAP and we charge the same $200 for 30 minutes to strategize the language on your behalf. For most people this is the most valuable asset you own. Whether you hire FLIC or anyone else to do it, make sure you divide the pensions that you are entitled to! Never forget, no matter what anyone tells you, that a QDRO is an advocacy document. You hire the drafting attorney; you control the QDRO language.
Other financial transactions (As Quoted)
Rolling over 401Ks, Roth IRAs, and division of retirement assets. The price depends on the number of accounts and the relatively ease of performing the work. This is usually hourly billing, but can often be done at a lower billing rate for non-lawyers.
These are more immediate than QDROs but no less important. This is how you effectuate the final division of your assets. A court only has the power to make orders, but it does not enforce its own orders or make them occur. You have to do that yourself or else it does not get done. You can do this immediately or years after it was ordered, but if you don’t do it, no one will do it for you. It can take a couple of hours for even seasoned attorneys like us, but for parties it can often be mind boggling. We can do anything from advising you on how to go about the division of the financial assets to actually taking care of it for you.
Other Services + Attorney Time ($200 for 30 minutes)
- Wage garnishments – $250
- Custody motions – $600 (RFO + Income and Expense Declaration)
- Child support motions – $600 (RFO + Income and Expense Declaration)
- Responding to a child support motion by DCSS – $600
- Parentage (paternity) motions if first filing already done (otherwise paternity is a normal first filing) – $600
- Spousal support motions – $600 (RFO + Income and Expense Declaration)
- Discovery – Formal and Informal Discovery – $600 – Requesting documents from your spouse or the other party.
Special and Extenuating Circumstances
- Emergency or Ex parte orders – $400 per hour, with an $800 minimum (the additional fee is because we drop everything to make sure this happens immediately). We can usually prepare emergency orders in 2-3 hours, but sometimes circumstances warrant more work. If that happens, we will discuss pricing with you.
- Domestic Violence Restraining Orders – price varies depending on referral source – We are committed to helping our community root out domestic violence by filing proper DVROs. We have litigated many DVROs successfully and understand what the Court is looking for in granting them.
If you have been referred to us by any local DV shelter, legal aid society, law enforcement or county office or, if your spouse has been charged with a crime, we will create and file DVRO requests for free. The referral source must contact us directly on your behalf.
If none of the above apply, then we charge $1,000 for a DVRO application plus time billed in half hour increments with the lawyer.
Service of Process
We have qualified process servers and will serve documents on your spouse for a $100 fee. This is commensurate with what other process servers charge and we make sure that you get same day or next day service. We will file proofs of service for you at the Court. Proofs of service are very simple but they are a critical part of the legal system; without them, a case cannot go forward because every party is entitled to notice of an action against them.
For any motion we recommend that you spend at least a half hour with the lawyer discussing your case to make sure you should file and what to say when you do file.
Filing – you pay all of your own filing fees but we will take the documents to the courthouse for you and file them if you sign the waiver. We will also help anyone who qualifies receive a fee waiver at the courthouse by filling out the fee waiver forms.
Once you sign up with us, we will have all of your information saved in our database, so you can come back at any time for additional forms and paperwork. After you have engaged us to provide services, then we will be able to generate any of the family law forms efficiently, often while you wait.
Finally, we are also a full-service law firm: EganLaw. We can be hired to represent you in your case using our evergreen retainer model. This is more expensive, of course, but there are times when you cannot afford to represent yourself. In general, cases where you cannot afford to represent yourself are: 1) move away petitions, 2) Domestic Violence Restraining Order defense, 3) Adoptions and 4) Complex asset division with separate and community property.
[*] Virtually all cases settle. Virtually all cases should settle, but there are some cases that are too hot or the issues are too difficult for settlement and the parties should use a full-service law firm if they can afford it. There is absolutely no shame in not being able to afford a full-service firm; the shame is in not asking for help when you need it. If the case is too complex for FLIC’s lawyers to help you navigate on your own, we will tell you. Then, you are free to engage us or any other attorney to represent you in court.