Unbundled/Limited Scope Divorce Services

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.


What Is Unbundled/Limited Scope Divorce?

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.

What Is a Limited Scope Consulting Attorney?

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.

What an Unbundled/Limited Scope Divorce Might Look Like in Your 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:

  • A client can receive ongoing legal consulting sessions with an attorney on their own schedule to learn about the law, how the law affects their personal situation, and the options for proceeding to finalize the divorce with a fair settlement agreement. This advice can include direction on negotiating with the other spouse and/or lawyer, going to a court hearing, co-parenting, or simply what the options and outcomes might be in a potential divorce.
  • A client can have the attorney draft up all the paperwork necessary for either a contested or uncontested family law proceeding, while the client’s (and not the lawyer’s) name appears on the paperwork. Such paperwork can include: Petitions, Responses, Preliminary and Final Declarations of Disclosure (including the Schedule of Debts and Assets and Income and Expense Declaration), Requests for Orders (and all responsive papers), Discovery, Stipulated Judgments and Settlement Agreements, and other court documents, pleadings, and forms necessary in either a contested or uncontested divorce. Often, divorcing couples are in agreement on all issues in a divorce, and one spouse works with a limited scope attorney to put together all the necessary paperwork and advise on the procedure to finalize the divorce.
  • A client may have the attorney appear on their behalf at a single hearing or set of court hearings (e.g. a hearing on a temporary child or spousal support) without committing to being the attorney of record for the entire 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.

How a Divorce Coach Can Guide You Through a DIY or Limited Scope Divorce

Are you in full command of the facts of your case?  Are you able to ask the right questions and organize your case without assistance?  If your answer to these questions is “not at all,” you may want to read further to see if a DIY divorce is right for you.

With the costs of divorce rising and the increase in online and do-it-yourself options, many people choose to forgo hiring attorneys and, instead, to represent themselves (also known as Pro Per).  While this is often not advisable in financially complex and/or high-conflict cases, it can work for those whose situations are straightforward and less contentious – especially if both parties agree to work with an attorney on a limited scope basis.

If a limited scope divorce is an option for you, it is worthwhile to consider having a Certified Divorce Coach® guide you through the non-legal aspects of your case.  Your divorce coach offers the following benefits:

 1. Will serve as your “thinking partner” as you navigate through your divorce.  Your coach will help you to identify and work toward your long-term goals, as well as challenge your assumptions so you carefully make decisions that support you along the way – thereby minimizing the feeling of overwhelm that most going through a divorce will face.

2. Open your mind to ensure that you fully explore all options and obstacles in your path.

3. Work with you to organize your documents and focus on key issues.

4. Serve as a “reality check” to whether you are making decisions based on short-term, emotional reactions instead of long-term reasoning.

5. Provide you with resources, specifically other professionals who can assist you as needed.

6. Help to you avoid “stepping over pennies to save dollars” and ensure you have the information you need to make informed decisions.

Hiring a Certified Divorce Coach® while working with an attorney on a limited scope basis (to review your legal paperwork, for example) often provides clients with exactly what they need to move through and beyond their divorce. This combination can provide a cost-effective and efficient process while also equipping you with the resources to handle both the legal and non-legal aspects of your divorce.

Contact a Knowledgeable Unbundled/Limited Scope Attorney

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.

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