Most adults are familiar with the old adage “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”, and they have likely gained enough life experience to conclude it is reliable in most circumstances. Through trial and error, we learn how to recognize a non-reputable claim, and to make informed decisions.
Too Good to be True
The guarantee of a ‘weekend divorce’ – a flat-fee, quick-divorce completed in a weekend – should immediately bring this saying to mind. Nothing more than an irresponsible gimmick preying upon vulnerable couples seeking a fast, cheap way to end their marriage, and a ‘weekend divorce’ is definitely too good to be true.
One has to assume that these claims are made by attorneys whose offices are not attracting new clients based on their own integrity, reputable advertising or past client referrals. Instead, desperate attorneys have put aside the best interest of the client, and made unrealistic promises in an effort to increase business.
Glossing Over the Details
There is no template for completing a divorce. Each case has specifics and subtleties which may require new research, in-depth discussion or a tailored approach to ensure the best outcome for all parties involved. A “weekend divorce” portrays quick resolution, but at a price not measured in dollars.
Rushing through financial details and quickly completing and signing a Marital Settlement Agreement is not advised. Similarly, in cases where children are involved, making decisions to be included in a Parenting Agreement cannot be taken lightly. Parties need to carefully read and consider these documents, and have ample time to discuss all concerns with their attorneys without the pressure of a defined time constraint. If you interview an attorney who advises otherwise with regard to your documents, it is time to find a new attorney.
No Such Thing as a Weekend Divorce
While a couple may walk away from a ‘weekend divorce’ with signed paperwork in hand, the fact is that they are just at the beginning of the process of filing for divorce. In some counties, including Will County in Illinois, there is a 30-day period after filing before the divorce can be finalized. During this time, you and your spouse will likely spend time thinking about the documents, and perhaps even reconsider a decision or agreement that was made. But with your low-cost weekend session paid and meetings completed, will the attorney be willing to spend time to revisit, discuss and include your changes? If so, you can expect a bill at his regular hourly rate for the additional time spent on your case.
Many times the final step in the divorce process is the division of retirement funds between parties. A document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) may be required for some retirement accounts, and specifies how the accounts will be divided. These documents need to be carefully prepared and submitted for approval. Your divorce attorney will assist you in this process and provide follow-up assistance if necessary. However, it is unlikely that a QDRO will be completed properly, if at all, in a flat-fee, one-weekend divorce.
Post Decree Issues
Initially choosing to have your divorce handled thoroughly by an experienced attorney is the best way to avoid the need to revisit the matter in the future. While it may sound appealing, it is simply not possible to take the time to cover all the necessary details in a short weekend. Post-decree issues may include custody, visitation, child support, maintenance or other financial issues, and they do occur even in a carefully-handled divorce. Time spent later resolving these issues will require added expense, and it can be emotional and disruptive years after the divorce. Handling your divorce properly the first time around will help prevent the need to re-hire an attorney and return to court to settle disputes that may arise down the road.
Insist on Quality Representation for your Divorce
It is perplexing for an experienced, well established attorney when a program is offered pushing the concept of ‘weekend divorce’. A reputable attorney has seen time and time again the thought, time and attention that go into successful representation of his clients. An attorney who is providing solid legal representation for his clients and has a steady case load does not have time or the desire to mislead couples with tactics to get them in the door.
It is always in your best interest, and the best interest of your children, if applicable, to seek quality representation for your divorce. This should include interviewing attorneys, explaining your unique situation, and choosing based on these discussions rather than promises of a quick resolution or cheap representation. A quality attorney will know that your divorce is of the utmost importance, and will have your best interests in mind. He will work hard to achieve your goals, be available to answer questions, and represent you until the day your divorce is final, not just until the brief time allotted or “one-time” fee you paid for your case has run out.