This is part of the ongoing Guide to Uncontested Divorces.
Finding the Right Attorney for an Uncontested Divorce
If you are thinking about an agreed divorce, you need to make sure you find the right attorney. There are several factors that will be important: the experience of the attorney, the attorney’s fee, and whether the attorney will charge a flat rate or an hourly rate.
Experience with the Fayette County Family Court Rules
Experience is always important with an attorney. It is especially important with a divorce attorney, even if you are planning on doing an agreed divorce. Be careful if you are choosing an attorney who is not experienced with divorces. Divorces are more complicated than many attorneys realize, and it is very important that they be done correctly.
Make sure the attorney you select is familiar with the statewide divorce statutes and the family court rules.
When choosing a divorce attorney for an uncontested divorce, you should choose an attorney that has experience in Fayette County. Every county has different local rules. This means that the divorce process is different in each county.
Fayette County has rules that frequently trip attorneys up. For example, Fayette County requires in any uncontested divorce that the Decree of Dissolution be signed by both sides. Many counties don’t require this. Another unusual rule is the requirement that the Property Settlement Agreement say the precise phrase “Approved and Incorporated by Reference.”
I used to be the staff attorney for the Chief Judge of the Fayette County Family Courts, and I frequently saw out of town attorneys submit uncontested divorces that violated the rules. The pleadings were rejected. Even attorneys in Lexington frequently violated the rules.
The moral of the story? Pick an attorney who has done divorces in Fayette County, and who understands Fayette County’s local rules.
Flat Fee Attorney vs. Hourly Rate
Another choice you will have to make is whether to hire an attorney who charges a flat rate or an hourly rate. Most attorneys charge an hourly rate. Some (like me) offer a flat rate.
Hourly Rate Divorces
If you pick an attorney that charges an hourly rate, you will probably have to pay a retainer fee. The retainer fee (usually $2,000 or more) will go into the attorney’s IOLTA account. When the attorney works on your case, they will bill their time. At the end of the billing cycle, they will bill you for the time they spent on your uncontested divorce, and transfer that money out of their IOLTA account.
How much you spend on the uncontested divorce will depend on how much your attorney works. You will not know the cost of your divorce until you receive your final billing statement from your attorney after the Decree of Dissolution has been granted in your uncontested divorce.
Flat Rate Divorce Attorneys
A flat rate is called a “non-refundable retainer.” Flat rates are still somewhat unusual, at least among Fayette County attorneys. I do offer a flat rate for agreed divorces, but I am probably in the minority.
The advantage of a flat rate is that no matter how long the attorney work on your agreed divorce, you know how much you will pay up front. The disadvantage is that if some disagreement arises, it will not be covered, and you will have to pay another retainer fee.
I hope this helps you decide on an attorney to handle your uncontested divorce. Feel free to read more advice on uncontested divorces in my Guide to Uncontested Divorces.