One increasingly popular method of providing family law legal services is called “limited scope divorce” or “unbundled legal services.”
Limited scope divorce is often thought of as an “a la carte” option for obtaining legal services in your divorce or other family law proceeding. The main benefits of this approach are saving money, reducing conflict, and empowering yourself to proceed with your own divorce with the appropriate amount of guidance and support.
Limited scope divorce may be most easily explained by what it is not. The most common structure for working with an attorney in a divorce is to have that attorney be your “attorney of record.”
When an attorney is your attorney of record, he or she will place their name on all legal filings made with the court. They will handle negotiations and other discussions with your spouse’s lawyer (or the spouse directly, although you can always negotiate and discuss the divorce directly with your spouse, no matter the structure), and they will be required to appear on your behalf in any court proceedings, among other things.
Needless to say, these court appearances and interactions with opposing counsel can result in more attorney’s fees than you were hoping to pay. Also, when your spouse receives legal documents with the name of an attorney on them, that spouse may feel like it’s necessary to get his or her own attorney as well.
A limited scope consulting attorney does not serve as your “attorney of record.” Instead, you as the client will define the scope of exactly what you want your attorney to do and there is more of a division of responsibilities between the attorney and client. Think of a ghostwriter who can draft legal paperwork or prepare you for court hearings.
For example, you may only want your limited scope attorney to provide you with legal advice on your options and what outcomes you should be seeking (and how to obtain them) while you handle everything else. Your attorney’s name might not show up on any paperwork, and your spouse may not even need to know you are working with an attorney.
This can save money and stress, while still allowing you to obtain just the right amount of legal guidance and support you need to resolve your divorce or other family law proceeding.
Limited scope divorce can take any number of forms, and you and your attorney can work out what model will best serve your interests. Furthermore, you can amend this arrangement at any time as the case proceeds (including converting the arrangement to a full “attorney of record” representation if both the client and the attorney are willing).
Here are a few common limited scope consulting arrangements a client and attorney might have in working towards the comprehensive and final resolution of a divorce:
These examples are not exhaustive and a limited scope arrangement can take many forms. In addition, some cases are too complex and not suitable for unbundled/limited scope services. An experienced family law attorney will work with you to determine what arrangement works best for your situation to protect your resources while moving forward toward fair and efficient finalization of your divorce.
The above information is not intended as specific advice for any case. It is for general education purposes only. If you need answers to specific questions and want to speak with an understanding, knowledgeable family law and divorce lawyer, call us today.
For more specific information, please contact Zonder Family Law Group for a consultation. If you are in Santa Barbara or Ventura County, call 805-777-7740. If you are in Los Angeles County, call 818-877-0001. ZFLG is deeply committed to helping clients resolve the conflicts that arise in the course of the divorce.