You just got served with divorce papers. Your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, you feel like you’ve been slapped across the face. When you finally muster the strength to sit down and read the papers, you are in no better shape. The stack of court pleadings spewing out legal citations and “wherefores” and “herebys” has left you dazed and confused. You don’t fully understand what you’re reading, but you know you have to do something: The “summons” requires you to respond within 30 days.
You go to a phonebook (or more likely, your phone or your tablet). You ask a friend (or Siri or Google) to find you a divorce lawyer. You examine your list of choices and begin making calls. You need a lawyer to help make sense of this heap of legal mumbo-jumbo.
You call around to several law firms, which leaves you feeling even more defeated. Even the simplest of divorces could cost you thousands. You don’t think you can afford to hire an attorney. . . But then again, can you afford not to?
Wait a minute, you think . . . Are these my only two choices: 1) Hire a lawyer with a big retainer or 2) Represent myself but risk getting trampled on in court? If only there was a third option, where you represent yourself but call upon an experienced attorney to help “coach” you when you get stuck?
I am happy to tell you that there is. And I can offer you this emerging third choice, also known as “unbundled” legal services. In this scenario, you hire me to coach you through your divorce while you are the one who files the court pleadings and appears in court. You could also hire me to file your initial response, or to appear on your behalf for a single court hearing, but otherwise you represent yourself in your divorce.
This third option isn’t for everyone, and there are potential pitfalls and drawbacks. If something unexpected happens in court and you have no lawyer by your side, for example, you could doom your own case. But, limited legal representation is a good solution for someone who needs to pinch pennies but feels emotionally and mentally capable of handling some of their own case.
I explore this option with every new divorce client. For many this is too daunting and full representation is required. However, limited representation or a lawyer “coach” can provide people who can’t afford full-blown representation with greater access to justice. Coaching gives confidence to people who would otherwise face their legal battle scared and alone. As a lawyer serving the community, I am happy to offer unbundled legal services where appropriate.
Robert (Bob) Good has practiced law in Jackson County for over twenty years, specializing in family law, estate planning and business law. Contact him at his Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.