Nowadays there are many more options available for dissolving a marriage than ever before. The California legal system has suffered significant budget cuts making traditional divorce litigation even more complex and costly. Get on the Internet and you're bombarded with claims from attorneys and mediation centers ready to “help.” Already stressed from the concerns you have about the impact divorce will have on you and your family, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Many divorcing people are now hiring consulting attorneys to navigate the process.
What is a Consulting Attorney?
A consulting attorney is simply a licensed California divorce attorney that provides you with services by the hour as opposed to taking a substantial retainer to be your attorney of record. An attorney of record is the attorney who represents you in court. This attorney's name is on all your legal paperwork and your spouse's attorney of record will be required to communicate directly with your attorney of record. Most consulting attorneys will transition into being attorneys of record if needed.
What are the Benefits of Hiring a Consulting Attorney?
- A consulting attorney can save you a significant amount of legal fees. As you hire the attorney by the hour, you have much more flexibility on how you wish to use the attorney's services. He or she can be used solely for document review, to advise you on a strategy, or to advise you while you go through mediation.
- Hiring a consulting attorney allows you an opportunity to experience the attorney's skill setand experience firsthand. Especially if your case is complex, hiring a consulting attorney gives you an opportunity to “test-drive” the attorney so that you can get a feel for whether, for example, you are satisfied with the attorney's skill level or ability to strategize.
- Hiring a consulting attorney is critical if you and your spouse are in mediation. While you may have a mediator that you trust, remember it is not the mediator's job to ensure that the divorce settlement is fair to both of you, nor is it the mediator's role to explain the myriad of complications of California family law. Not understanding the nuances of your proposed settlement agreement could cost you thousands of dollars or important legal rights, especially if unforeseen circumstances arise and you need to change your agreement long after the divorce is over.
What Kinds of Limitations are there to Hiring a Consulting Attorney?
A consulting attorney will usually not communicate directly with your spouse and cannot represent you in court (unless his or her status is changed to become your attorney of record). If you don't keep your consulting attorney informed as to everything that is relevant in your case, the advice and counsel you receive can be compromised (through no fault of the attorney). Also, there are many situations, especially when a case is being actively litigated, where you must have an attorney of record to protect your rights.