I just don’t believe in retainers. I never ask for one. I think they rob divorcing people of the control they need to get through their divorce effectively.
I offer flat rates for uncontested divorce. The vast majority of people who use me for uncontested divorce pay the flat rate and nothing more. Click here to find out more about how my fees work.
Keeping it Simple
Most people are surprised when they find out that I don’t meet with clients in my office – isn’t that what lawyers do? My clients don’t need to travel to handle their divorce with me. That saves me the expense of maintaining a fancy office (imagine the savings I can pass on to you from mahogany and brass alone!), and it also means an extra measure of convenience for my clients. Because I don’t normally meet with clients in my office, the area where I work is quite small – just room enough for me and a bunch of machines. I have no partners and no staff. This means my overhead stays low, which allows me to keep my prices affordable. It also means that your private business stays private.
My clients normally never come to my office at all. Instead, they simply e-mail me when they have the necessary information and their Visa or Mastercard ready, and as soon as they and I are able to make connection, we prepare the divorce papers. I use a service that allows you to see the documents on your computer in real time as I’m preparing them.
There’s some special information here for people who live in other countries.
The divorce system has a frustrating and disturbing tendency to drive divorcing couples apart. I work actively to keep this from happening. I try to provide as much information as possible for free, so you can use me only for what only I can do. The more information both of you have, the less it matters which of you is my client.
After doing this for several years, I’ve learned some things about how uncontested divorce works, at least when you do it with me. You can read about them here so you’re less likely to be surprised by something that comes up later.
Rejection of uncontested divorce papers is a huge problem in Alabama, but not at Alabama Family Law Center. I work really hard (mostly behind the scenes) to make sure the court processes your divorce papers smoothly and quickly. Because I do this, I offer a No Rejection Divorce Guarantee.
- Should we try an uncontested divorce?
- Information Lee will need
- Does everything need to be decided before our session?
- Should both spouses participate?
- What if I can’t find my spouse?
- What if neither of us lives in Alabama?
- What if neither of us has anything to do with Alabama?
- What does it cost?
- Can I have my child or children with me for the session?
- What will happen in the session?
- How long does the session last?
- How long will it take after the session?
- How do I get started?
- When can I schedule an appointment?
- Is there a deadline after you prepare the documents for my spouse to sign?
- Will our divorce be published in the newspaper?
The answer will vary depending on how complex the issues are between you, the level of trust in your relationship, and the level of conflict you’re experiencing. The best way I know to answer this is to take the Uncontested Divorce Quiz. It’s pretty accurate. If you’re still not sure, check out Are We Ready To Get Started with Lee?
I will need the home address for each of you and whether it is within city limits. I will need the social security number and date of birth for each of you. I will need to know how many times each of you has been married, if any, before this current marriage and how each of your most recent marriages ended (death, annulment, divorce, etc.).
I will need to know the city and county in which you married your current spouse and the date on which you married. I will need a separation date that must have already occurred by the time I file the divorce documents with the court. I’ll need to know how far each of you got in school.
If you have children younger than 19, I’ll need (a) the full name, address, and social security of each child; (b) the address and phone number where each parent lives and where each parent works; (c) the name of the employer for each parent; (d) the income of each parent (including bonus, commission, overtime, and shift differential pay); (e) the cost of work-related child care; and (f) the cost of health insurance, if any, for the children.
If you own a house together, and if one of you is going to sign it over to the other, you may want to have a copy of your deed handy, preferably already scanned in so you can email it to me. This will give me the information I need to create a quitclaim deed or statutory warranty deed so you can handle that at the same time. The rest of the information I need to know you will probably have in your head when we talk.
If you and your spouse have children together, there’s something else I encourage you to do before you call me: please read and ask your spouse to read the required language on relocation that I will need to insert in the Final Judgment of Divorce. It’s kind of hairy, so it will save time (and money) if both of you are familiar with it before we get started. And no, there’s not a thing you can do about it if one of you objects. The law requires that it be there, and the judge won’t sign the divorce decree without it. If you’d like, you can read the statute that requires it.
Now that’s the information that I need. If you and your spouse are unsure about what to do with an asset, or what an asset is worth, or how best to approach a debt, by all means have available the information related to it so you will be able to refer to it as necessary. Just use your best judgment, and err on the side of having it handy rather than leaving it stored somewhere. I can still hear my Daddy’s advice ringing in my head, so I’ll bounce it over to you: “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
And one final thought: what I need is the information, not the documents proving it. You’ll need to have the physical documents if your spouse wants to see them (and you’re welcome to gather them on general principle), but I will trust you, so you don’t need to send me any documents to prove things to me.
For a comprehensive listing of the information I will need for your uncontested divorce, take a look at the Info Template.
No. Ideally, you and your spouse will share a broad understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. I may spot issues that neither of you have thought about. If you begin with a rigid understanding that “this is the deal and we’re not changing it,” you may be frustrated when I point out something about it that costs you money or leaves you at risk unnecessarily. On the other hand, if you begin our session with a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish but some flexibility about how to accomplish it, experience indicates you’ll both be more pleased long-term with the results.
That’s up to you. If you’re both able to participate together and work through the issues you face, you may both feel more comfortable about the process, because you’ll both see how the documents take shape, you’ll both hear the descriptions of the issues, and you’ll both have a chance to respond to the issues in real time.
On the other hand, sessions generally take a little longer if both spouses participate, particularly if one of the spouses is inclined to ask lots of questions or offer lots of explanations as we work through the documents. If one of you doesn’t want to be part of the session, or physically cannot participate because you’re separated by distance and don’t have a suitable Internet connection, that’s okay. I’ll work with the spouse who participates and put together the documents. You can both sign them and then return them to me for filing.
Remember this: one of you will be my client and one of you will not. I am charged as a lawyer with the ethical obligation to be an advocate for my client. That means I will protect my client’s interests, and it also means I can provide legal advice only to my client. I cannot answer judgment questions or provide legal advice for the spouse who is not my client. If you’re trying to decide which of you should be my client, there are some questions here on the site you should answer. Click here to read them.
And another thing: please don’t ask me to call your spouse for you. I’ve learned over years of working with couples going through uncontested divorce that if the two of you can’t communicate directly with each other, you’re unlikely to be happy using me as your lawyer.
Then you can get a divorce, but I don’t call it an uncontested divorce. You will need to get service of process on your spouse by publication (a process that takes publication for four consecutive weeks in your local newspaper), then wait 30 days, then have the court declare your spouse in default and schedule a hearing, then give oral testimony before the court. I don’t do this work, but almost any other attorney who handles divorces will be glad to help you with it.
If Alabama is the permanent home for either or both of you, it’s not a problem if you both happen to be living outside the state temporarily. I file all my uncontested divorces in Talladega County, and I am accustomed to filing uncontested divorces for people who are staying all over the world (as long as one or both the spouses has maintained residence in the State of Alabama for six months or more). We can meet online, and then I can e-mail the documents to you (and your spouse, if you like) for review. Then when you and your spouse are comfortable that they’re right, you can sign them and return them to me for filing. Barring something unusual, neither of you would need to go to any court or stand before any judge.
There’s some special information here for people who live in other countries.
I am licensed to practice law in the State of Alabama and in no other state. In order for me to file an uncontested divorce, at least one of the parties needs to have resided in the State of Alabama for at least the last six months, or both parties need to reside in Alabama now. If this doesn’t apply to you, I appreciate your being here, but I’m afraid I’ve been wasting your time. I’m sorry.
The first thing we will do when we talk is to get your Visa or Mastercard information; I will charge the flat rate to your credit card the day we talk, plus any additional charge needed if our conversation takes extra time. I will wait and charge the filing fee only after you deliver to me the signed papers ready for me to file with the court.
Obviously, that’s your choice, and it’s one of the nice things about the way you deal with me that our meeting doesn’t have to be quite such a production as a meeting with a lawyer would be typically. That having been said, I hope you’ll think about it carefully.
I like children, but children and divorce don’t mix. First, your children have no business hearing about the issues of your divorce, even if they’re so tiny you think it doesn’t matter. Second, you may think your child will be a little darling and won’t be disruptive, but you’re wrong. Children sense when their parents are under stress, and they will demand your attention constantly. It’s their way of coping with the strain they feel when they know you’re hurting. Because they demand your attention constantly, our session will move much more slowly, as you and I struggle against the distraction to get through the issues of your divorce. Because I charge by the hour, you will end up paying me more money. At my hourly rates, you may save money by hiring a babysitter.
The first thing we will do when we talk will be to record the credit card number and the expiration date of the Visa or Mastercard you want me to use to pay the legal fee (first things first, said the lawyer!). I will gather information about the two of you and build a database record. I will then use a spreadsheet that pulls information from the database record to calculate your child support and show you how the guidelines work. Then I will use a word processor that pulls information from the database record to create all the documents needed for your uncontested divorce and show you how they fit together. With most couples, I spend the bulk of the time on the Agreement between the two of you, which is where the rubber hits the road on the issues of your divorce. It’s here that you will set out your parenting plan, how you’re going to divide your property and debts, and who is going to provide what support to whom. All my forms are pre-drafted, with multiple alternative clauses to deal with each issue, so there’s a minimum of drafting to finish your documents. If you have high-speed Internet you will see them take shape on your computer screen and will be able to make changes on them in real time as we prepare them.
A typical session is finished within 45 minutes to an hour. Missing information, complex assets and debts, and complex visitation schedules are the three most common reasons why sessions take longer. When your documents are finished, I will e-mail them to you. You and your spouse print them, sign them, and return them to me for filing. If you later agree to make changes to them, everything is on computer; changes are usually quick and inexpensive.
A note about pace. I’ve spent thousands of hours, and a great deal of money, to be able to assemble the documents for your divorce really quickly. I pride myself on the speed with which I’m able to build the documents for a divorce, even a divorce involving several million dollars in assets and tricky tax issues. The reason I have done this, though, is so neither spouse feels rushed. I think it’s important that both spouses have a sense of complete control over the pace at which their divorce moves. A few years ago McDonald’s ran an advertising campaign based on “We serve it fast so you can eat nice and slow.” That’s the way I feel about divorce.
As part of my razor-sharp focus on keeping divorce costs low for cooperative couples, I never file documents until both spouses have signed all the documents needed. I file most uncontested divorce documents in Talladega County, even if neither spouse lives there.Click here if you want to know more about why I file in Talladega County. In Talladega County, unless there’s some kind of problem, plan for your divorce to be effective within about six weeks after I file the complaint with the court, and neither of you will need to go to court in person.
Don’t overlook that “unless there’s some kind of problem” bit. I do everything I can to make sure there’s no holdup in your case, but I absolutely, positively cannot guarantee that your divorce will be effective by any certain date. If you have a deadline about when your divorce must be effective, so that you’re going to be getting agitated as that date approaches, you really shouldn’t use me. On the other hand, if you and your spouse have the normal desire to get your ordeal finished as soon as possible, know that we’re all on the same team. I want it finished as soon as possible too, and I will be working to make that happen.
The court will not send out a hard copy of your divorce decree. Instead, I will provide the court your e-mail address, and if I have it, your spouse’s e-mail address. The court will send an e-mail message to all of us immediately when the judge has signed your decree with the official copy of your divorce decree. You’ll want to make sure your spouse gets a copy of it too. If either of you wants to get a certified copy of your decree with the pretty gold seal, you can order it from the court by calling 256-761-2102.
I’m usually working Monday through Friday, and I make appointments at 8:30 , 9:30, 10:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30. Here’s how a typical work week shapes up:
I do not make appointments over lunch time, in the evenings, or on weekends. I’m sorry.
No, not as such. If I haven’t heard from you in about a month, I’ll send you a letter or e-mail asking you about it. If I don’t hear from you within another month, I’ll close your file and stop worrying you about it. I have no problem pulling your file and using the same documents later if they’re still acceptable to the court.
However, there is a chance, over time, either that your circumstances will change or that the court’s procedures and requirements will change. And eventually, your documents will become so stale that we’ll have to redo them anyway. Obviously, the sooner you and your spouse sign the papers and deliver them to me for filing, the lower the likelihood of either of these problems.
No. The local newspapers covering Talladega County do not make it a practice to publish a list of all the people filing for divorce in the county. And to my knowledge, no reporter has a habit of reading the divorce filings to see if “anything interesting” appears there. That having been said, all divorce filings in Alabama are a matter of public record. Anyone, including you, can go to any county courthouse and ask to search for divorce filings throughout the state by name of plaintiff and/or defendant. So if someone you know really wants to find out if you have filed for divorce and where, they can do so. However, no one I know will be providing a list of all the divorces filed in my cases for anyone’s reading enjoyment.
Fill out the info template with the data needed for you and your spouse. You don’t need to send it to me; just make sure it’s complete. Next, make sure your Visa or Mastercard will accept the legal fee for your divorce. I’ll be charging it to you when you and I talk. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to send me an e-mail and tell me the two or three times from the table above that work best for me to call you, as well as the best phone number to use to reach you. The first thing I do when someone e-mails me about a divorce is to send them a link to this page, so if you’ve already slogged through it and have gotten to this point on the page, tell me so in the message and we can skip that step and get right to setting up the appointment.
When I respond to your e-mail, I’ll tell you which of the times you’ve suggested works best for me, and we can book the appointment for me to call you.
Alabama Family Law Center is a private law firm. It is neither a public legal aid agency nor a section or subcommittee of the Alabama State Bar. No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.