by Zonder Family Law Group
One increasingly popular method of providing family law legal services that serves to address and minimize such outcomes is called “limited scope divorce” or “unbundled legal services.” You might think of limited scope divorce as being an “a la carte” option for obtaining legal services in your divorce or other family law proceeding, with the main benefits of this approach being 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 his name on all legal filings made with the court, he or she 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 he or she will be required to appear on your behalf in any court proceedings, among other things. Needless to say, this 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, however, 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. 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. Again, 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 several 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. Oftentimes, 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 temporary child or spousal support) without committing to being the attorney of record for the entire divorce.
These are just several examples, and a limited scope arrangement can again take many forms. An experienced family law attorney can work with you to determine what arrangement works best for your situation to protect your resources while moving forward towards a fair and efficient finalization of your divorce.
Guidance on Your California Family Law Questions from a Westlake Village Family Law Attorney
If you would like to learn more about how our office can provide guidance on any California family law issues you are facing in Ventura County or Los Angeles County, contact the Zonder Family Law Group office today at (805) 777-7740 or (818) 877-0001, or schedule your strategy session using easy-to-use online form here.