You Get What You Pay For With Divorce Lawyers
Key word: impossible; at least in most cases.
The first campaign we noted was touted in Manhattan as the "one-hour-divorce" for about $500. For the low fee, clients meet with a paralegal and lawyer at the NYC firm to provide their personal information. The details of their settlement are also, briefly, discussed.
The clients are next provided a ten dollar gift certificate to either McDonald's or Starbucks to burn-up the last hour of their ill-fated marriage while the law office prepares the canned document package for a "one-size-fits-all" divorce.
You cannot have issues, however, or it will cost you extra. The basic premise is that the divorce has to be absolutely 100% "pro confesso" (i.e. uncontested). Basic input is collected from the client and a set of pleadings are prepared within the alotted hour. A standard judgment is generated and executed for entry and filing with the court at the appropriate time, usually six months.
Hopefully nothing changes during the statutory wait period, or all bets are off. Also, under general rules of legal ethics, the firm could not represent both parties to the divorce; but they've apparently figured out which one is their "client".
If the divorcing couple has children, property, or needs support, these issues can be handled in an hour; but will cost more than double. A Prenuptial agreement would all but disqualify the client from the discount program, although a "conventional" divorce would still be available.
Not to be outdone, there is a storefront in Brooklyn that has a sign advertising divorce for $399. It turns out that this storefront is not a law firm, but rather the office of a paralegal that merely acts as a scrivener for the divorce forms required by New York state laws.
For the stated fee, the paralegals will assist you in the completion and filing of the forms which are then filed with the court. Then, it's "up to the judge". Translation: you are on your own.
This advertised fee is also a classic bait and switch. Not only are there extra fees for just about everything, you also need to pay filing costs and court fees.
Apparently, the idea behind the sign is to get you in the door for the advertised low fee. Once inside, then you learn that you, like 99% of the rest of the population, do not qualify for the low fee, but for a few hundred more bucks, they will take care of you.
It is "buyer beware" for these outfits for sure.
Here in Oakland County, we here at the Law Blogger and at Clarkston Legal, believe that the most important asset of any divorce lawyer is their reputation. If the attorney is experienced and gets good results, it will be reflected in their fees.