Fixed Fees in Collaborative Family Law Cases*

A Scenario**

You thought the marriage to the love of your life was going to be forever. After his six-month affair with the attractive woman from his department at the ad agency he works for, you just do not trust him anymore as your husband.

You met at Emerson College and have been married for 15 years. He is a great father to your three children who are six, ten and 14. He is attentive to them, is a great provider and a respectful person. You want to get a divorce and would like to work this divorce out amicably using the collaborative process.

However, the cost of a getting a divorce concerns you as you still have loans from college at Mass. College of Art and graduate school at Emerson College, the mortgage from your home, the auto loans and child care costs. Using a collaborative law process to get divorce seems too expensive. Your Husband has some small loans left from Harvard University where he got his MBA. Both of you make a good living, but the expenses are so high in the Boston area that you have to carefully watch your budget. You don’t want to spend hours in court, have others hear your private issues and spend lots of money in legal fees. You have some savings. So what can you do?

What’s New?

There is something new in Massachusetts that is catching on to make the collaborative law process something that you can pursue. Many attorneys in Massachusetts are accepting fixed fee collaborative cases which could be more affordable.

How Does the Collaborative Law Process Work?

Collaborative law uses a team approach where each person has an attorney representing him or her, a collaborative coach and often a financial professional. Each person hires their attorney and agrees that they will not litigate with their attorney trained in the collaborative process. If negotiations break down they will need to find litigation counsel, which provides a strong incentive to keep negotiating with their collaborative attorney. The collaborative coach and financial professional will provide professional assistance during the collaborative process, but will not provide counseling or financial advice, respectively, after the collaborative process has been completed.

The professionals on your team (your attorney, your husband’s attorney, the coach and the financial professional) do a pre brief before each meeting and a post brief after each meeting to talk on how they can best help resolving your situation.

What is Fixed Fee using the Collaborative Law Process?

In a fixed fee case, the collaborative professionals on the team, agree with the parties to work with them for a certain number of meetings for a fixed price. The fix fee is an agreed upon amount to pay for a certain number of collaborative meetings, a document review, drafting of an agreement and (with the attorneys) an appearance in court. Each person needs to pay their attorney at a certain amount they agree with their attorney and they share the cost for the coach and the financial professional. Coaches and financial neutrals may also be able to provide services at a fixed fee. If the divorce cannot be resolved in a certain number of meetings, such as three or four meetings, then the parties to this process can contract for more meetings at a certain fixed price with the professionals on the team.

Conclusion**

You find the fixed fee collaborative process to be a very good option for your situation as you want to maintain a good relationship with your husband for the children’s sake. You know what the cost will be up front. Your attorney will be at the collaborative law meetings, with your husband, his attorney and the collaborative coach. The collaborative coach could help with working out a good parenting plan so both of you can spend quality time with the children. The financial professional can evaluate your finances and may make some recommendations to maximize the cash that you have available. You could even meet with the collaborative coach or the financial professional without counsel during this collaborative process to save money, if all agree. You are so glad you found out about fixed fee in collaborative law process, as it seems to be something that you could afford, do what is best for the children and help with your long terms plans for your finances.

*This article is not meant to provide legal advice, but is for information only.
**This is a fictional scenario.

(c) Copyright Debra L. Smith. All rights reserved.