Frequently Asked Questions
At Zolman Law Firm, we understand that legal issues can create a lot of uncertainty and questions that seem daunting. We put together some frequently asked questions to help ease your mind and provide clarity on some of the general questions we receive regarding divorce.
Feel free to browse these questions, and when you are ready to discuss your case, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our highly-skilled attorneys.
- How much does a divorce cost?
It depends on the “type” of divorce situation you have. And who controls that? For the most part, you and your spouse do.
Our attorney fees for a non-contested divorce without children is a mere $600. Your only other cost is the $149 filing fee that will be paid to the Court.
- Does a divorce cost more if children are involved?
Yes. For non-contested divorces with children (no children born prior to the marriage), our attorney fees are $800, an extra $200 because of the time that goes into the creation of the required parenting plan. The filing fee remains $149.
- What if there are any children born prior to the marriage?
For divorces with one or more children born prior to the marriage, the Court requires that a second case be filed in addition to the divorce. This companion case is a Paternity case, which literally doubles the quantity of paperwork needed to complete the initial filings. Our attorney fees for a non-contested divorce with a child or children born prior to the marriage are $1,000. The extra $200 to cover the additional 8 documents that are necessary for filing the companion Paternity case. The cost of the filing fee will remain $149 as the Court agrees to forego a filing fee for the Paternity case.
- What do all non-contested divorces have in common?
Whether you call these divorces affordable divorces, simple divorces, flat rate divorces, or even cheap divorces, the key is that the parties have agreed on everything. The Zolman Law Firm does hundreds of these non-contested cases per year. The timeframe for the divorce is approximately 6 to 7 weeks; and, typically the divorce can be completed without a trip to the courthouse. The Zolman Law Firm has one attorney with over 20 years of experience that is dedicated to nothing except non-contested divorces.
- What can make my divorce more expensive?
Basically, anything that the two of you don’t agree on.
Examples of Common Areas of Disagreements:
(1) Custody disputes – Sometimes minor in nature, and easily settled; and, sometimes completely unable to settle without a trial.
(2) One Parent relocating out of the area – Naturally it is hard for both parents to have any sort of a 50/50 custody arrangement when one parent moves a significant distance away.
(3) Child Support disagreements – The Judge will expect child support to be somewhat close to the Missouri Form 14 calculation. But sometimes agreeing on the numbers to be put into the Form 14 is the subject of disagreement.
(4) Maintenance (Alimony) Yes or No – Many couples struggle to make ends meet with two incomes coming into one household. Those individuals will naturally struggle to make ends meet with two households. Whether maintenance will be ordered is on a case by case basis.
(5) Marital versus Separate Property – Marital property is subject to being divided, while separate property is set aside to the party that it belongs to. The label of an asset can make a huge difference to the parties.
(6) Co-mingled Assets – When one party co-mingles separate property with marital property, there are even more issues to sort out.
(7) Dissipated Assets – When one party uses (wastes) marital funds to spend on a paramour, gambling, drugs, etc., the Court can try to make the other party whole by giving them a larger portion of the marital funds.
(8) Hidden Assets – Money or securities that one party has tried to hide away from their spouse as they approach a divorce.
(9) Hidden Debt – It’s not unusual for one spouse to have taken out credit cards (in both names) without the other spouse knowing.
(10) Tax Debt – It’s common for a married couple to file their taxes jointly to take advantage of the lower tax rates. If the IRS has issues with the filing down the road, the couple often disagrees on who is responsible for paying this debt.
(11) Substance Abuse – This can cause problems in many ways. Even communicating with someone that is constantly under the influence is a nightmare.
(12) Illegal activities – If one of the parties is involved with any kind of illegal activities, this could cause issues by putting themselves, and/or the spouse in peril, and often affects the parenting plan.
(13) An Opposing Attorney that is not interested in trying to settle the case – Unfortunately, not every family law attorney is “settlement minded”. There are always a few rotten apples in every occupation. And as with every occupation, the rotten apples often diminish the reputation of everyone else in that profession. Thankfully, the great majority of family law attorneys have the best interest of their client in mind; and, will work with opposing counsel to find compromises that will allow the parties to settle their case if it is at all possible.
- Should I give into my spouse's every demand to keep the case friendly?
No. You will wake up a few days or weeks after the divorce and think “what did I do?”. This is not to say you shouldn’t negotiate issues, but talk over each issue with your attorney first. Trust the attorney that you hired to help you make fair decisions, not snap decisions. Decisions that you can live with long after the trial is over.
- What happens if we can't agree on everything?
For divorce cases that contain issues, whether one issue or multiple issues, your case is a contested divorce. And this means that your divorce is going to cost more, take more time, and add some stress to your life. The good news is that experienced family law attorneys are adept at working to settle the issues in your case in the most cost-effective manner possible.
Many issues can be resolved by simply sending settlement proposals back and forth. (You give some, you get some.) Some clients are pleasantly surprised at the speed at which their case can be settled by a competent attorney that has the client’s best interest at heart. And while they didn’t have a flat fee divorce, their divorce is still rather inexpensive.
For lingering issues, the attorneys (or the Judge) will schedule a Settlement Conference. The Judges in family court are extremely good at helping guide the parties towards a settlement. The more issues that can be resolved prior to a trial, the shorter and less expensive the trial should be. And often enough information comes out of a settlement conference that all remaining issues can be settled.
- What is the most important thing for me to consider when it comes to the division of property?
Use your common sense. Many people get so involved in the emotions of their case that they lose touch with their common sense. It is very often worth spending some money to get a better settlement than what has been offered to you. Again, talk this over with your attorney. They will be able to help you make your decisions. While it is worth spending $5,000 to get half of a $100,000 asset. It is not worth spending $5,000 to get half of a $1,000 asset. But people caught up in the “heat” of the moment often make decisions that are not financially sound.
- If my case is contested, will there be a trial?
Not necessarily. A trial is the last resort and the cases that reach that point often contain issues that the parties just will not agree upon. At this point the attorneys and/or the Judge schedules a trial date.
- How can I hold down the expenses of a trial?
First and foremost, cooperate with your attorney and their staff. If the staff must call you six times for you to get a single document for them, you are adding to the time spent on your case and thereby adding to your fees. Nothing is more frustrating than having a client that we can’t reach, or that we can’t get to cooperate with us.
If something important changes as we prepare for trial. Let us know immediately. For instance, if you get a new job a month prior to trial, we need notice as soon as possible, along with details. Keep in mind that you want your attorney to know everything that could possibly come up in trial. We need to know at least as much about our client as the other attorney knows.
Remember that you have attorney-client confidentiality with your attorney and their staff. If you have a “secret”, your attorney needs to know. Don’t let your attorney be blindsided at court. You had better bet that your spouse has already told their attorney everything about you.
- Will my legal costs be more if my case is contested?
Yes. First, you will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to find an experienced family law attorney that will accept a flat fee for a contested divorce case. Be careful to read the attorney-client agreement before hiring any attorney. And be especially careful in reviewing an offer that seems to suggest that you can pay a flat fee on a divorce case that is contested. Often there are clauses built into such an agreement that you receive limited representation on such a case. Or, that your flat fee covers only one court appearance, one settlement proposal, etc. Everything else that is done is charged by the hour. By the time your case is over on one of these ala carte type representations, you have often spent more in fees than you would have had you hired an attorney with more experience in the first place.
The Zolman Law Firm has experienced family law attorneys that can guide you through your case and help you make decisions that will not only impact you at the time of your divorce, but may impact you for many years to come.
- What should I keep in mind while searching for the best family law attorney for my case?
(1) Hire an attorney that practices primarily family law. We can tell immediately when an attorney that represents our client’s spouse is not primarily a family law attorney.
(2) Hire a family law attorney that routinely practices in the county in which your case is going to be filed. Each county has their own local court rules. If your attorney is not familiar with these rules, they are at an immediate disadvantage.
(3) Remember that just because the attorney or firm spends tens of thousands of dollars on fancy advertising, that doesn’t mean the attorney or firm is any better than a firm that watches their overhead. After all, that advertising overhead is passed through to clients.
(4) Make sure that the attorney that you hire has a personality that meshes well with your personality.